Skip to main content
Internet Archive's 25th Anniversary Logo

Full text of "Andre Servier Islam And The Psychology Of The Musulman. A Chapman And Hall Ltd. ( 1924)"

See other formats

* , . i 

Sew Df^L_ 












* > / 








i <4 

\t*e. ' 

Dato- . 
flail No 

. r UfthHL 

*¥>r&r / 3 °& 

3 ^. „ 





I HAVE not the honour of M. Andre Sender’s 
personal acquaintance : I only know “ La 
Psychologie du Musulman,’’ of which he has 
been kind enough to send me the manuscript. 
The work impresses me as excellent, destined to 
render the greatest service to the French cause 
throughout Northern Africa, and at the same time 
to enlighten the natives themselves as to their own 
past history. 

What I admire most of all is his vigorous assault 
upon the great mass of French ignorance. One of 
the prejudices most likely to lead us to disaster lies 
in the belief that our African rule is nothing more 
than an incident in the history of the country, in the 
same way as we look upon the Roman dominion. 
There is a number of writers who persistently main- 
tain that Rome made but a short stay in Africa, that 
she remained there but a century or two. That is a 
monstrous error. The effective empire of Rome in 
Africa began with the destruction of Carthage, 146 
b.c., and it only came to an end with the Vandal 
invasion, about the year 450 of the Christian era- 
say six* hundred years of effective rule. But the 
* Vandals were Christians who carried on the Roman 
civilization in its integrity, and who spoke and wrote 
Latin. In the same way, the Byzantines who 




succeeded them, even if they did not speak Latin 
officially, were able to regard themselves as the 
legitimate heirs of Rome. That went on until the 
end of the seventh century. 

So that Africa had eight hundred and fifty years 
of effective Latin domination. And if we consider 
that under the hegemony of Carthage the whole 
region, from the Syrtes to the Pillars of Hercules, 
was more or less Hellenized or Latinized, we arrive 
at the conclusion that Northern Africa had thirteen 
hundred years of Latinity, whereas it can only reckon 
twelve hundred years of Islam. 

The numerous and very important ruins that even 
up to the present time cover the country bear witness 
to the deep penetration of Greco-Latin civilization 
into the soil of Africa. Of all these dead cities the 

only one the uninstructed Frenchman or even the 
Algerian knows is Timgad. But the urban network 
created by the Romans embraced the whole of North 
Africa up to the edge of the Sahara; and it is in 
these very regions bordering on the desert that 
Roman remains are most abundant. If we were 
willing to go to the trouble and expense of excavating 
them, were it only to bring to light the claims of 
Latinity in Africa, we should be astonished by the 
great number of these towns, and as often as not by 
their beauty. 

M. Andre Servier is well aware of all this ; but he 
goes a good deal further. With a patience and 
minuteness equally wonderful, he proves scientifically 
that the Arabs have never invented anything except 
Islam — that “ secretion of the Arab brain,” that 

they have made absolutely no addition to the 'ancient 
heritage of Greco-Latin civilization. ^ 

It is only a superficial knowledge that has been 

able to accept without critical examination the belief 




current among Christians during the Middle Ages, 
which attributed to Islam the Greek science and 
philosophy of which Christianity had no longer any 
knowledge. In the centuries that have followed, the 
Sectarian spirit has found it to be to its interests to 
confirm and propagate this error. In its hatred of 
Christianity it has had to give Islam the honour of 
what was the invention, and, if we may so express 
it, the personal property of our intellectual ancestors. 

Taking Islam from its first beginnings down to 
our own day, M. Andre Servier proves, giving chapter 
and verse, that all that we believe to be “ Arab ” or 
“ Musulman,” or, to use an even vaguer word, 
“ Oriental,” in the manners, the traditions and the 
customs of North Africa, in art as well as in the more 
material things of life — all that is Latin, uncon- 
sciously, or unknown to the outside world — it 
belongs to the Middle Ages we have left behind, our 
own Mediaevalism that we no longer recognize and 
that we naively credit as an invention of Islam. 

The one and only creation of the Arabs is 
their religion. And it is this religion that is the 
chief obstacle between them and ourselves. In the 
interests of a good understanding with our Musulman 
subjects, we should scrupulously avoid everything 
that could have the effect of strengthening their 
religious fanaticism, and on the contrary we should 
encourage the knowledge of everything that could 
bring us closer together — especially of any traditions 
we may have in common. 

It is certainly our duty to respect the religious 
opinions of the natives ; but it is mistaken policy for 
us to appear more Musulman than they themselves, 
and to bow down in a mystical spirit before a form 
of civilization that is very much lower than our own 
and manifestly backward and retrograde. The times 



are too serious for us to indulge any longer in the 
antics of dilettantism or of played-out" impressionism. 

M. Andre Sender has said all this with equal 
truth, authority and opportuneness. The only 
reserves I would make reduce themselves to this : 

I have not the same robust faith as he has in the 
unlimited and continuous progress of humanity ; and 
I am afraid that he is under some illusion in regard 
to the Turks, who are still the leaders of Islam, and 
are regarded by other Moslems as their future ' 
liberators. But all that is a question of proportion., _ 

I am willing to believe in progress in a certain 
sense and up to a certain point; and I have no 
hesitation in agreeing that the Turks are the most 
congenial of Orientals, until the day when we, by 
our want of foresight and our stupidity, provide 
them with the means of becoming once more the 
enemy with whom we shall have to reckon. 



28 rd September , 1922 . 







1 , France needs a Musulman policy inspired by realities and 
not by received opinions and legends — We can only 
> understand any given portion of the Musulman 

. people by studying Arab history, because of the 
solidarity of all Musulmans and because Islam is 
nothing but a secretion of the Arab brain — There is 
„ no such thing as Arab civilization — The origins of 

the legend — How modem historians and the scholars 
of the Middle Ages were deceived — The Arab is a 
realist and has no imagination — He has copied the 
ideas of other peoples, distorting them in the process 
— Islam, by its immutable dogmas, has paralysed the 
brain and killed all initiative . . .1 


For any comprehensive knowledge of Islam and the 
Musulman, it is necessary to study the Desert — The 
Arabian Desert — The Bedouin — The influence of the 
Desert — Nomadism — The dangerous life — Warrior 
and bandit — Fatalism — Endurance — Insensibility — 

The spirit of independence — Semitic anarchy — 
Egoism — Social organization — The tribe— Semitic 
1 pride— Sensuality — The ideal — Religion — Lack of 
imagination — Essential characteristics of the 
Bedouin . . * « * .14 



Arabia in the time of Mahomet — -No Arab nation — A dust 
of tribes without ethnic or religious bonds — -A 
prodigious diversity of cults and beliefs * — Two 
mutually hostile groups : Yemenites and Moaddites — 





Sedentaries and nomads — Rivalry of the two centres : 
Yathreb and Mecca — Jewish and Christian propa- 
ganda at Yathreb — Life of the Meccans — Their 
evolution — Federation of the Fodhoul — The pre- 
cursors of Islam . . . . .31 


Mahomet was a degenerate Bedouin of Mecca — Circum- 
stances made him a man of opposition — His lonely 
and unhappy boyhood — Camel-driver and shepherd 
— His marriage to Khadija — His good fortune — How 
he conceived Islam — Islam was a reaction against the 
life of Mecca — His failures at Mecca — He betrays his 
tribe — His alliance with the men of Yathreb — His 
flight — First difficulties at Medina — How he had to 
resort to force — The principal cause of his success : 
the lure of booty — The taking of Mecca — Triumph 
of the Prophet — His death . . , .43 


Mahomet’s doctrine — Islam is Christianity adapted to 
Arab mentality — The practical essentials of Islam — 
The Koran is the work not of a sectarian but of a 
politician- — Mahomet seeks to recruit his followers by 
every possible means — He deals tactfully with forces 
he cannot beat down, and with customs that he 
cannot abolish— Musulm an morality— Fatalism — The 
essential principles of the reform brought about by 
the Prophet— Extension to all Musulmans of family 
solidarity — Prohibition of martyrdom — The Musul- 
man bows to force, but keeps his own ideas — The 
Koran is animated by the spirit of tolerance, Islam 
is not ; the fault rests with the commentators of the 
second century, who by stereotyping the doctrine and 
forbidding all subsequent modification, have rendered 
all progress impossible ... 


Islam under the successors of Mahomet— Even in Arabia 
the new faith was only able to impose itself by force 
The first Musulman conquerors were actuated by 



the desire for plunder, not by any anxiety to 
proselytize — The expansion of Islam in Persia, Syria 
and Egypt was favoured by the hostility of the 
natives of those countries to the Persian and Byzan- 
tine Governments — The struggle for influence 
between Mecca and Medina, which had contributed 
to Mahomet’s success, was continued under his 
successors, sometimes favourable to Medina, under 
the Caliphates of Abu-Bekr Omar and Ali; some- 
times to Mecca, under the Caliphate of Othman — 

The Mecca party finally triumph with the coming of 
Maowiah — Conflicts between the tribes, between 
individuals, chronic anarchy : characteristics of 
Musulman society and the causes of its future ruin . 77 


Islam under the Ommeyads — The Theocratic- Republic 
becomes a Military Monarchy — The Caliphate 
established at Damascus, where it comes under 
Syrian influence, that is to say, Greco-Latin — The 
rivalries which divided Mecca and Medina break out 
between these towns and Damascus — The conquest 
of the Moghreb, then of Spain, realized through the 
complicity of the inhabitants, anxious to get rid of 
the Greeks and Visigoths — The attempted conquest 
of Gaul fails owing to the stubborn resistance of 
the Franks, and marks the limit of Musulman 
expansion — The Ommeyad dynasty, extinguished in 
orgies of Byzantine decadence, gives place to the 
dynasty of the Abbassides . 105 


Islam under the Abbassides — The Caliphate is transferred 
from Damascus to Bagdad, where it comes under 
Greco-Persian influence — Through the administration 
of the Barmecides, ministers of Persian origin, the 
Caliphs surround themselves with foreign savants 
and men of letters, who give to their reign an incom- 
parable splendour; but, in their desire to organize 
Musulman legislation, the Caliphs, under the inspira- 
tion of the Old Musulmans, fix the Islamic doctrine 
# immutably and render all progress impossible — This 
was the cause and the beginning of the decadence 
of Mahometan nations — Spain breaks off from the 
Empire, setting an example of insubordination which 
is to find imitators later on . . . . 184 



Islam under the last Abbassides — The Musulman Empire 
on the road to ruin — The Arab conquerors, drowned 
in the midst of subject peoples and incapable of 
governing them, lose their war-like qualities by con- 
tact with them — Good-for-nothing Caliphs, reduced 
to the r61e of rois faineants, are obliged in self- 
defence to have recourse to foreign mercenaries, who 
soon become their masters — Provinces in obedience 
to nationalist sentiment break away from the Empire 
— The last Abbasside Caliphs retain possession of 
Bagdad only — Their dynasty dies out in ignominy . 


Causes of the dismemberment of the Musulman Empire — 
The chief is the inability of the Arabs to govern — The 
history of the Caliphs in Spain is identical with that 
of the Caliphs at Damascus and at Bagdad : the same 
causes of ephemeral grandeur, the same causes of 
decay — There was no Arab civilization in Spain, but 
merely a revival of Latin civilization — This was 
developed behind a Musulman fa$ade, and in spite 
of the Musulmans — The monuments attributed to the 
Arabs are the work of Spanish architects 


Arab decadence in Persia, Mesopotamia, and Egypt — 
The provinces, relapsed into barbarism temporarily 
under Arab dominion, are re-born into civilization as 
soon as they are able to free themselves — General 
causes of the decay of the Arab Empire : Political 
nullity — Absence of creative genius — Absence of dis- 
cipline — Bad administration — No national unity 

The Arab could only govern with the collaboration 
of foreigners — Secondary causes : Religion, the 
vehicle of Arab thought — Too great a diversity 
among the conquered peoples— Despotic power of the 
prince — Servile position of women— The Islamization 
of the subject peoples raised them to the level of the 
conqueror and allowed them to submerge him — Mixed 
marriages — Negro influence — Diminution of the 
Imperial revenues — The mercenaries . 









The Musulman community is theocratic — Religious law, 
inflexible and immutable, regulates its institutions as 
well as individual conduct — Legislation — Education 
— Government — The position of women — Commerce 
— Property — No originality in Musulman institutions 
— The Arab has imitated and distorted — In his mani- 
festations of intellectual activity he appears to be 
paralytic, and since he has impregnated Islam with 
his inertia, the nations who have adopted this religion 
are stricken with the same sterility — All Musulmans, 
whatever their ethnic origin, think and act like a 
Bedouin barbarian of the time of Mahomet . 196 


The sterility of the Arab mind is apparent in every mani- 
festation of intellectual activity — Arab civilization is 
the result of the intellectual efforts of non- 
Arab peoples converted to Islam — Arab science, 
astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, medicine, is 
only a copy of Greek science — In history and 
geography the Arabs have left a few original works — 

In philosophy they are the pupils of the School of 
Alexandria — In literature, with the exception of a 
few lyric poems of no great value, they are under 
the inspiration of Greek and Persian models — The 
literature of the Moors in Spain is of Latin inspira- 
tion — In the fine arts, sculpture, painting and music, 
the nullity of the Arabs is absolute . . * 216 


The psychology of the Musulman — Steadfast faith in his 
intellectual superiority — Contempt and horror of 
what is not Musulman — The world divided into two 
parts : believers and infidels — Everything that pro- 
• ceeds from infidels is detestable — The Musulman 
escapes all propaganda — By mental reservation he 
even escapes violence — Check to the attempts to 
introduce Western civilization into the Musulman 
world — Averrhoes . * 240 





Islam in conflict with European nations — The Nationalist 
movement in Egypt — Its origin — The National Party 
— Moustafa Kamel Pasha — Mohammed Farid Bey — 

The popular party — Loufti Bey es Sayed — The party 
of constitutional reform — Sheikh Aly Yousef — The 
attitude of England — Egyptian Nationlist’s intrigues 
in North Africa . . . . • 258 


France’s foreign Musulman policy — We should help 
Turkey — The lessons of the Wahabite movement — 

In the Musulman world the Arab is an element of 
disorder, the Turk is an element of stability — The 
/ Arab is doomed to disappear ; he will be replaced by 
the Turk — A policy of neutrality towards the Arabs 
of friendly support towards Turkey — Conclusion . 202 


France needs a Musulman policy inspired by realities and not 
by received opinions and legends — We can only under- 
stand any given portion of the Musulman people by 
studying Arab history, because of the solidarity of all 
Musulmans and because Islam is nothing but a secretion 
of the Arab brain — There is no such thing as Arab 
civilization — The origins of the legend — How modern 
historians and the scholars of the Middle Ages were 
deceived — The Arab is a realist and has no imagination 
— He has copied the ideas of other peoples, distorting 
them in the process — Islam, by its immutable dogmas, 
has paralysed the brain and killed all initiative. 

T HAT France is a great Mahoniedan Power 
may be a commonplace, but it is a truth 
that ceases to be a platitude, however often 
repeated, when we remember that our 
country holds in tutelage more than twenty million 
Mahomedans; and that these millions are firmly 
united by the solidarity of their religion to the 
formidable block of three hundred million adherents 
of the Prophet. 

This block is divided superficially by racial rivalries, 
and even at times by conflicting interests. But such 
is the influence exerted by religion upon individuality, 
so great is its power of domination, that the mass 
forms a true nation in the midst of other peoples, a 
nation whose various portions, melted in the same 
crucible, obedient to the same ideal, sharing the 
same philosophic conceptions, are animated by the 
same bigoted belief in the excellence of their sacred 

1 A 



dogma, and by the same hostile mistrust of the 
foreigner — the infidel. Such is the Musulman 

Islam is not only a religious doctrine that includes 
neither sceptics nor renegades , 1 it is a country; and 
if the religious nationalism, with which all Musulman 
brains are impregnated, has not as yet succeeded in 
threatening humanity with serious danger, it is 
because the various peoples, made one by virtue of 
this bond, have fallen into such a state of decrepitude 
and decadence that it is impossible for them to 
struggle against the material forces placed by science 
and progress at the disposal of Western civilization . 2 
It is to the very rigidity of its dogma, the merciless 
constraint it exercises over their minds, and the 
intellectual paralysis with which it strikes them, that 
this low mentality is to be attributed. 

But even such as it is, Islam is by no means a 
negligible element in the destiny of humanity. The 
mass of three hundred million believers is growing 
daily, because in most Musulman countries the birth- 
rate exceeds the death-rate, and also because the 
religious propaganda is constantly gaining new 
adherents among tribes still in a state of barbarism. 

The number of converts during the last twenty 
years in British India is estimated at six millions; 
and a similar progress has been observed in China, 
Turkestan, Siberia, Malaya and Africa. Neverthe- 
less the active propaganda of the White Fathers is 
successfully combating Moslem proselytism in the 
Dark Continent. , 

It behoves us then, as Le Chatelier says, to make 
an intelligent study of Islam, and to found thereon 

1 Be Castries., L’Islam.” 

3 AncM Servier, <l Le Nationalism© Musulman ” ; P. Antomarohi, 
u Le Nationatisme Egyptian ” ; Henry Marcliand, u L } Egypt© ©t le 
Nat mc EgyptieD,” 



a Musulman policy whose beneficent action may 
extend not only over our African colonies but over 
the whole Musulman world. 

We have got to realize the necessity of treating 
over twenty million natives in some better way than 
tacitly ignoring them. For they will always be the 
only active population of our Central and West 
African colonies, whilst their present numerical 
superiority in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco cannot 
fail to increase as time goes on . 1 

Only by a thorough understanding of the 
mentality and psychology of the Musuhnan, and by 
discarding prejudice and legend, can we achieve any 
really useful and permanent work. 

It would be puerile to imagine that we can safely 
confine this study to our own Musulman subjects, 
with the object of governing them wisely. As we 
have already remarked, the Musulman is not an 
isolated individual; the Tunisian, the Algerian, the 
Moroccan, the Soudanese are not individuals whose 
horizon stops at the artificial boundaries created by 
diplomatists and geographers. To whatever political 
formation they may belong, they are first and 
foremost citizens of Islam. They belong morally, 
religiously, intellectually to the great Moslem Father- 
land, of which the capital is Mecca, and whose ruler 
— theoretically undisputed — is the Commander of 
the Faithful. Their mentality has in the course of 
centuries been slowly kneaded, moulded and impreg- 
nated by the religious doctrine of the Prophet, and 
as this doctrine is nothing but a secretion of the 
Arab brain, it follows that we must study Arab 
history if we want to know and understand any 
portion of the Musuhnan world. 

Such a study is difficult, not from any dearth of 

1 Alfred Le Chatelier, “ La Politique Musuhrmne.” 


documents — on the contrary, they abound, for Islam 
was born and grew up in the full light of history — 
but because the Moslem religion and the Arabs are 
veiled from our sight by so vast a cloud of accepted 
opinions, legends, errors, and prejudices that it seems 
almost impossible to sweep it away. And yet the 
task must be undertaken if we wish to get out of the 
depths of ignorance in which we are now sunk in 
regard to Musulman psychology. 

Jules Lemaitre was once called upon to introduce 
to the public the work of a young Egyptian writer 
on Arab poetry. The author, a novice, declared 
with fine assurance that Arab literature was the 
richest and the most brilliant of all known literatures, 
and that Arab civilization was the highest and the 
most splendid. Jules Lemaitre, who in his judg- 
ments resembled Sainte-Beuve in his preference for 
moderate opinions, felt some reluctance to counter- 
sign such a statement. On the other hand the 
obligations of courtesy prevented him from laying 
too much stress upon the poverty and bareness of 
Arab literature. He got out of the difficulty very 
cleverly by the following somewhat reserved state- 
ment : 

“ It is difficult to understand how a civilization so 
noble, so brilliant, whose manifestations have never 
lost their charm, and which in times past had so 
remarkable a power of expansion, seems to have lost 
its virtue in these latter days. It is one of the 
sorrows and mysteries of history/’ 


As the observation of a subtle mind, accustomed 
never to accept blindly current opinions as such, this 
is perfectly justified. For if we admit all the 
qualities that are habitually attributed to Arab 
civilization, if we are ready to bow in pious awe before 



the fascinating splendour with which poets and 
historians have adorned it, then it is indeed difficult 
to explain how the Empire of the Caliphs can have 
fallen into the state of decrepitude in which we see 
it to-day, dragging downward in its fall nations who, 
under other governance, had shown unquestionable 
aptitudes for civilization. 

How is it that the Syrians, the Egyptians, the 
Berbers, as soon as they became Islamized, lost the 
energy, the intelligence and the spirit of initiative 
they exhibited under the domination of Greece and 
Rome? How has it come about that the Arabs 
themselves, who, according to the historians, were 
the professors of science and philosophy in the West, 
can have forgotten all their brilliant accomplish- 
ments and have sunk into a state of ignorance that 
to-day relegates them to the barbarous nations? 

If we persist in asking these questions, it is for 
the sole reason that we have never really got to the 
bottom of the causes of the rapid expansion of Arab 
conquest, that we have never placed this conquest 
in its proper historical frame, in a circle of excep- 
tionally favourable circumstances. We have never 
penetrated the psychology of the Musulman, and are 
consequently not in a position to understand how and 
why the immense Empire of the Caliphs went to 
pieces ; how and why it was fated to collapse ; how, 
stricken by paralysis and death by a rigid religious 
doctrine that dominated and controlled every act of 
daily life, every manifestation of activity, having no 
conception of material progress as an ideal worthy to 
be pursued, how this baneful influence has kept its 
adherents apart from and outside of the great currents 
of civilization. 

In all that concerns Islam and the Musulman 
nations, we, in Europe, live under the shadow of an 


ancient error that from the remotest epochs has falsi- 
fied the judgment of historians and has often led 
statesmen to assume an attitude and come to 
decisions by no means in accordance with actual facts. 
This error lies in crediting the Arabs with a civilizing 
influence they have never possessed. 

The mediaeval writers, for want of exact docu- 
mentation, used to include under the designation of 
Arabs any people professing the Moslem religion; 
they saw the East through a fabulous mirage of those 
legends with which ignorance then surrounded all far 
distant countries; they thus laboured unconsciously 
to spread this error. 

In this they were helped by the Crusaders, rough 
and coarse men for the most part, soldiers rather than 
scholars, who had been dazzled by the superficial 
luxury of Oriental courts, and who brought back from 
their sojourn in Palestine, Syria or Egypt, judg- 
ments devoid of all critical value. Other circum- 
stances contributed equally to create this legend of 
Arab civilization. 

The establishment of the government of the 
Caliphs in the North of Africa, in Sicily, and then in 
Spain, brought about relations between the West and 
the countries of the Orient. In consequence of 
these relations, certain scientific and philosophical 
works written in Arabic or translated from Arabic 
into Latin, reached Europe, and the learned clerks 
of the Middle Ages, whose scientific baggage was 
of the lightest, frankly admired these writings, which 
revealed to them knowledge and methods of reason- 
ing that to them were new. 

They became enthusiastic over this literature, and, 
in perfect good faith, drew from it the conclusion 
that the Arabs had reached a high degree of scientific 



Now, these writings were not the original pro- 
ductions of Arab genius, but translations of Greek 
works from the Schools of Alexandria and Damascus, 
first drawn up in Syriac, then in Arabic at the request 
of the Abbasside Caliphs, by Syrian scribes who had 
gone over to Islam. 

These translations were not even faithful repro- 
ductions of the original works, but were rather 
compilations of extracts and glosses, taken from the 
commentators upon Aristotle, Galen, and Hippo- 
crates, belonging to the Schools of Alexandria and 
Damascus ; notably of Ammonius Saccas, Plotinus, 
Porphyrius, Iamblichus, Longinus, Proclus, etc . 1 
And these extracts already distorted by two succes- 
sive translations, from Greek into Syriac, and from 
Syriac into Arabic, were still further disfigured and 
curtailed by the spirit of intolerance of the Moslem 
scribes. The thought of the Greek authors was 
drowned in the religious formulse imposed by Islamic 
dogma; the name of the author translated was not 
mentioned, so that European scholars could have no 
suspicion that the work before them was a trans- 
lation, an imitation, or an adaptation; and so they 
attributed to the Arabs what really belonged to the 
Greeks . 2 

The majority of the mediaeval scholars did not 
even know these works, but only adaptations of them 
made by Abulcasis, Avicenna, Maimonides and 
Averrhoes. The latter drew especially from the 
“ Pandects of Medicine ” of Aaron, a Christian 
priest of Alexandria, who had himself compiled 
certain fragments of Galen and translated them into 
Syriac. The works of Averrhoes, Avicenna and 
Maimonides were translated into Latin, and it was 

1 Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire, “ Hist, de l’Ecole d 5 Alexandria ** 

2 SiiQiick Hurgronje^ “ Lq Droit Mu§ulmaii, ;; 


from this latest version that the mediaeval scholars 
made acquaintance with Arab science. 

It is well to remember that at that epoch the 
greater part of the works of antiquity were unknown 
in Europe. The Arabs thus passed for inventors 
and initiators when in reality they were nothing but 
copyists. It was not until later, at the time of the 
Renaissance, when the manuscripts of the original 
authors were discovered, that the error was detected. 
But the legend of Arab civilization had already been 
implanted in the minds of men, where it has 
remained, and the most serious historians still speak 
of it in this year of grace as an indisputable fact. 

Montesquieu has remarked : “ There are some 
things that everybody says, because somebody once 
said them.” 

Moreover, the historians have been deceived by 
appearances. The rapid expansion of Islam, which, 
in less than half a century after the death of 
Mahomet, brought into subjection to the Caliphs an 
immense empire stretching from Spain to India, has 
led them to suppose that the Arabs had attained a 
high degree of civilization. After the historians, the 
contemporary men of letters, in their fondness for 
exoticism, contributed still more to falsify judgment 
by showing us a conventional Arab world, in the 
same way as they have shown us an imaginary Japan, 
China, or Russia . 1 

It is in this way that the legend of Arab civiliza- 
tion has been created. Whoever attempted to 
combat it was at once assailed with Caliph Haroun-al- 
Raschid’s presents to Charlemagne — that Wonderful 
clock that struck with astonishment the contem; 
poraries of the old Emperor with the flowing beard' 
Then so many illustrious names are quoted : Averr- 

J Pr- Gustave Lg Bod, ‘ ‘ La Civilization deg Arabes,” 



hogs, Avicenna, Avenzoar, Maimonides, Alkendi, 
only to mention those best known. We shall show 
later on that these names cannot be invoked in favour 
of Arab civilization, and that moreover that civiliza- 
tion never existed. 

There is a Greek civilization, and a Latin civiliza- 
tion; there is no Arab civilization, if by that word 
is meant the effort personal and original of a people 
towards progress. There may, perhaps, be a Musul- 
man civilization, but it owes nothing to the Arabs, 
nor even to Islam. Nations converted to Mahomet- 
anism only made progress because they belonged to 
other races than the Arab, and because they had 
not yet received too deeply the impress of Islam. 
Their effort was accomplished in spite of the Arabs, 
and in spite of Islamic dogma. 

The prodigious success of the Arab conquest 
proves nothing. Attila, Genseric and Gengis Khan 
brought many peoples into subjection, and yet 
civilization owes them nothing. 

A conquering people only exercises a civilizing 
influence when it is itself more civilized than the 
people conquered. Now, all the nations vanquished 
by the armies of the Caliph had attained, long before 
the Arabs, a high degree of culture, so that they 
were able to impart a little of what they knew, 
but received nothing in exchange. We shall come 
back to this later. Let us confine ourselves for 
the moment to the case of the Syrians and 
the Egyptians, whose Schools of Damascus and 
Alexandria collected the traditions of Hellenism ; to 
North Africa, Sicily, and Spain, where Latin culture 
still survived ; to Persia, India, and China, all three 
inheritors of illustrious civilizations. 

The Arabs might have learnt much by contact 
with these different peoples. It was thus that the 



Berbers of North Africa and the Spaniards very 
quickly assimilated Latin civilization, and in the 
same way the Syrians and the Egyptians assimilated 
Greek civilization so thoroughly that many of them, 
having become citizens of the Roman or of the 
Byzantine Empire, did honour in the career of art 
or letters to the country of their adoption. 

In striking contrast to these examples, the con- 
quering Arab remained a barbarian ; but worse still, 
he stifled civilization in the conquered countries. 

What have the Syrians, the Egyptians, the 
Spaniards, the Berbers, the Byzantines become 
under the Musulman yoke? And the people of 
India and Persia, what became of them after their 
submission to the law of the Prophet ? 

What has produced this illusion, and misled the 
historians, is the fact that Greco-Latin civilization did 
not immediately die out in the conquered countries. 
It was so full of life that it continued for two or 
three generations to send forth vigorous shoots behind 
a frontage of Mahometanism. The fact explains 
itself. In the conquered countries the inhabitants 
had to choose between the Musulman religion 
and a miserable fate. “ Believe or perish. Believe 
or become a slave,” such were the conqueror’s 
conditions. Since it is >only the rare souls that 
are capable of suffering for an idea — and such 
chosen souls are never very numerous — and since 
the religions with which Islam came into collision 
— a moribund paganism, or Christianity hardly as yet 
established — did not exert any considerable influence 
upon men’s minds, the greater part of the conquered 
peoples preferred conversion to death or slavery. 
“ Paris is well worth a Mass : ” we know the formula. 

The first generation, made Mahomedans by the 
simple will of the conqueror, received the Islamic 



impress but lightly, keeping its own mentality and 
traditions intact ; it continued to think and act, in 
consideration of some few outward concessions to 
Islam, as it had always been used to do. Arabic 
being the official language, it expressed itself in 
Arabic ; but it continued to think in Greek, in Latin, 
in Aramaic, in Italian or in Spanish. Hence those 
translations of the Greek authors, made by Syrians, 
translations that led our mediaeval scholars to believe 
that the Arabs had founded philosophy, astronomy 
and mathematics. 

The second generation, brought up on Musulman 
dogma, but subject to the influence of its parents, 
still showed some originality; but the succeeding 
generations, now completely Islamized, soon fell into 

We observe this rapid decadence of successive 
generations under the Musulman yoke in all countries 
under Arab rule, in Syria, in Egypt and in Spain. 
After a century of Arab domination there is a 
complete annihilation of all intellectual culture. 

How is it that these people who, under Greek or 
Latin influence, have shown such a remarkable 
aptitude for civilization, have been stricken with 
intellectual paralysis under the Musulman yoke to 
such a degree that they have been unable to uplift 
themselves again, notwithstanding the efforts of 
Western nations in their behalf? The answer is 
that their mentality has been deformed by Islam, 
which in itself is only a product, a secretion of the 
Arab mind. 

Contrary to current opinion, the Arab is devoid 
of all imagination. He is a realist, who notes what 
he sees, and records it in his memory, but is incapable 
of imagining or conceiving anything beyond what he 
can directly perceive. 


Purely Arab literature is devoid of all invention. 
The imaginative element apparent in certain works, 
such as the 44 Arabian Nights,” is of foreign origin . 1 
We shall prove that in the course of this study. It 
is, moreover, this absence of the inventive faculties, 
a Semitic failing, that accounts for the utter sterility 
of the Arab in the arts of painting and sculpture. 
In literature, as in science and philosophy, the Arab 
has been a compiler. His intellectual beggary shows 
itself in his religious conceptions. In pagan times, 
before Mahomet, the Arab gods had no history, no 
legend lends poetry to their existence, no symbolism 
beautifies their cult. They are mere names, 
borrowed in all probability from other peoples, but 
behind these names there is — nothing. 

Islam itself is not an original doctrine; it is a 
compilation of Greco-Latin traditions, biblical and 
Christian; but in assimilating materials so diverse, 
the Arab mind has stripped them of all poetical 
adornment, of the symbolism and philosophy he did 
not understand, and from all this he has evolved a 
religious doctrine cold and rigid as a geometrical 
theorem : — God, The Prophet, Mankind. 

This doctrine is sometimes adorned by the nations 
who have adopted it and who have not the barren 
brain of the Arab, with quite an efflorescence of 
poetry and legend. But these foreign ornaments 
have been attacked with savage violence by the 
authorized representatives of Islamic dogma, and 
since the second century of the Hegira the Caliphs 
have decided, so as to avoid any variation of the 
religious dogma, to lay down exactly the r spirit and 
the letter in the works of four orthodox doctors. It 
is forbidden to make any interpretation of the sacred 
texts not sanctioned by these works, which have fixed 

1 Dozy, rt Essai sur l’Hiatoire de l’Islamisme.” 



the dogma beyond all possibility of change, and by 
the same stroke have killed the spirit of initiative and 
of intelligent criticism among all Musulman peoples, 
who have thus become, as it were, mumified to such 
an extent that they have stayed fixed like rocks 
in the rushing torrent that is bearing the rest of 
humanity onward towards progress. 

From this time forward, the doctrine of Islam, 
reduced to the simplicity of Arab conception, has 
carried on its work of death with perfect efficiency 
inasmuch as it governs every act of the believer’s life ; 
it takes charge of him in his cradle, and leads him to 
the grave, through all the vicissitudes of life, never 
allowing him in any sphere of thought or activity the 
least vestige of liberty or initiative. It is a pillory 
that only allows a certain number of movements 
previously fixed upon. 

To sum up : the Arab has borrowed everything 
from other nations, literature, art, science, and even 
his religious ideas. He has passed it all through the 
sieve of his own narrow mind, and being incapable of 
rising to high philosophic conceptions, he has dis- 
torted, mutilated and desiccated everything. This 
destructive influence explains the decadence of 
Musulman nations and their powerlessness to break 
away from barbarism ; it equally explains the 
difficulties that confront the French in Northern 


For any comprehensive knowledge of Islam and the Musulman, 
it is necessary to study the Desert — The Arabian Desert 
— The Bedouin — The influence of the Desert — Nomadism 
— The dangerous life — Warrior and bandit — Fatalism — 
Endurance — Insensibility — The spirit of independence — 
Semitic anarchy — Egoism — Social organization — The tribe 
— Semitic pride — Sensuality — The ideal — Religion — Lack 
of imagination — Essential characteristics of the Bedouin. 

T O know and understand the Musulman, we 
must study Islam. To know and under- 
stand Islam, we must study the Bedouin 
of Arabia; and to know and understand 
the Bedouin, we must study the Desert. For the 
desert environment explains the special mentality of 
the Bedouin, his conception of existence, his qualities 
and his defects. Consequently it explains Islam, a 
secretion of the Arab brain; and finally it explains 
the Musulman that Islam has run into its rigid 

An immense plateau, rocky and sandy, 1,250 
miles long with an average breadth of 500 miles, 
surrounded by a girdle of mountains with peaks 
rising 6,500 and occasionally 10,000 feet ; between 
this lofty barrier and the sea a fertile strip of 
country 50 to 60 miles wide. That, in a f£w strokes, 
is the general aspect of Arabia . 1 

The plateau is indeed what the Bedouins call it, 

1 Palgrave, lt A Year’s Journey through Central and Eastern 
Arabia ,r ; Larroque, ‘ * Voyage dans l’Arabie heureuse”; Strabo, 
Lib. am. 



“ the land of terror and of thirst.” Situated for the 
most part in the tropics, and shut off from the 
softening influences of the sea by a mountain wall 
that arrests the moist winds and causes the rain to 
fall on the coastal strip, it presents every variety of 
desert nature : the lava desert, or Harra ; the stony 
desert, or Hammada; the desert of sand, or Nefoud; 
moving dunes, alkaline plains, and “ sebkas,” whose 
salt crust breaks under one’s footsteps. 

The whole scene is wild and mournful. Those 
gentle undulations that rest the eye in countries 
with a normal climate, where centuries of cultivation 
have formed the soil, are unknown in the desert. 
There everything is disjointed, rough, bristling with 
hostility. In the basaltic and millstone regions the 
rocks are hewn into sharp edges. The undulations 
of the surface are abrupt and steep, without any 
gradual transition. 

If one could imagine the chain of the Alps 
submerged in alluvium up to within 300 to 500 feet 
of the summit, one would see nothing but a series of 
domes, peaks, needles, fallen rocks and denuded 
columns rising abruptly from the ground. That is 
what the Harra looks like, with its tortured skyline 
recalling vast cosmic upheavals. 

Then there is the Hammada, a barren plain of 
stones, a vast glittering extent of naked rocks, with 
all the weariness of one colour, where the wind has 
swept away every particle of vegetable earth, where 
extremes of heat and cold have split up the soil into 
slabs and splinters — a monstrous chaos of broken 
stone, where no living thing can flourish. 1 

• Further on is the Nefoud, a sea of sand passing 
out of sight, from whence emerge high dunes like 
huge waves petrified, with parallel gullies formed by 

1 De Laborde and Linnant, “ Voyage dams 1’Arabie Petree.” 


the wind that keeps them incessantly in motion. Of 
one unif orm tawny tint, this barren plain is of an 
appalling monotony. It is the domain of death, and 
either burns or freezes. The porosity of the sand 
multiplies the surfaces of absorption and of radi- 
ation, and the sun by day heats it up to such a degree 
that one dare not venture across it; at nightfall it 
loses this heat almost instantaneously, and becomes 
covered with frost. 

Under the effect of the wind which is bottled up 
in these gullies, possibly also from expansion, the 
dunes give out strange sounds, which add to the 
wild horror of the solitude. They literally hum, like 
a metallic top, and some travellers have compared 
the noise to that made by a thrashing-machine . 1 

Then there are vast stretches of gypsum, of a 
whiteness that is unbearable under the burning glare 
of the sun. And again there are the “ sebkas,” 
once salt lakes, now dried up, on the surface of which 
the salt mixed with sand forms a crust full of holes 
over a quagmire. 

Throughout the country vegetable soil is very 
scarce. Reduced to an impalpable powder by the 
general dryness, it is carried away by the wind, and is 
precipitated by the action of rain in less dry countries. 
Being subject within the same period of twenty-four 
hours to torrid heat and extreme cold (140° to 18° 
Fahr.), swept by winds either burning or freezing 
but always dry, the soil, whatever its nature, is 
stricken with barrenness. 

Vegetation is rare in the desert ; in ^he absence 
of rain, it can only obtain nourishment from 
water in the subsoil, and so can only thrive in deep 
basins, where the water-bearing stratum is near the 
surface. There are a few stunted plants in the 

1 Gautier, " Le Sahara Algerien.” 


ravines and the wadies — long depressions at the 
bottom of which one may find a little moisture by 
digging — some Artemisias, Brooms and Halophytic 
plants. Here and there, in sheltered places, a 
few puny shrubs of acacia and tamarisk carry 
on a forlorn struggle against the ever-encroaching 

There are no rivers, no springs, a few wells, far 
apart, constantly being covered by the shifting sand, 
and having to be cleaned out every time by the 
thirsty traveller. 

Any considerable collection of human beings is 
impossible amid such hostile natural surroundings; 
they would be decimated by hunger and thirst. So 
there are no towns, nor even villages ; only starveling 
families, for ever preoccupied by the anxieties of their 
existence, wandering in these wastes strewn with 

But if, leaving these dreary solitudes, one crosses 
the mountain barrier enclosing them, one descends 
suddenly into a wonderful country. The coastal 
region, watered by sea breezes, fertilized by the 
wadies, which in rainy weather roll in torrents from 
the heights, is, in comparison with the desert plateau, 
a land of plenty and delight. Between Medina and 
Mecca this strip is widened by the granitic plateau 
of Nedjed, an important mountain mass that catches 
the rains and feeds numerous springs . 1 Here are 
wells that never dry up, and oases where beneath 
the palms there is a two-storied vegetation of fruit 
trees, cereals, and perfume plants. Here too are 
pastures where horses, camels and sheep can 

These are the favoured countries of the Hedjaz, 
of Assir, Nedjed and the Yemen, of Hadramout and 

1 Maurice Tamisier, et Voyage en Arabie.” 


Oman, with populous towns such as Medina with 
Yambo as its port, Mecca with its port of Djeddah, 
Taif, Sana, Terim, Mirbat and Muscat. 

And yet the attraction of these fertile i*egions 
has not depopulated the desert. The Bedouin has 
remained faithful to his desert, and as, by the side 
of the sedentary, less active tribes of a gentler mode 
of living, he represents the man of action restless and 
brutal, it is he who in the end has imposed his manners 
and mentality upon the whole of Arabia. It is him, 
therefore, that we have to study. 

No historical research is needed ; immobility being 
the leading characteristic of the Arab tribes , 1 the 
Bedouin has not changed. Such as he was when 
Mahomet drew him from his idol- worship, so we see 
him exactly described in the book of Genesis, in the 
passages relating to Ishmael or Joseph, or well 
represented in the bas-relief of the palace of Nineveh 
recording scenes from the wars of Assurbanipal, even 
so is he at the present day . 2 

The desert condemns the individual to a special 
sort of life which develops certain faculties, certain 
qualities and certain defects. It is an existence full 
of difficulties, with danger everywhere; from the 
marauder prowling round the tent or round the flock, 
meditating a sudden dash : from the wind-enemy 
that dries up the water-hole and smothers the meagre 
vegetation in sand : from the rival who occupies a 
coveted pasture : from the soil that cracks into 

The desert imposes as a first condition of existence 
— nomadism. It is not for pleasure that the Bedouin 
is always travelling, but from stern necessity. Culti- 

1 Dozy, “ Hist, des Musulmans d’Espagne,” t. i., p. 3; Delaporte, 
“La vie de Mahomet,” p. 47; Larroque, op. cit. p. 109. 

2 Lenormant, “ Hist, des peuples Orientaux ” VI., p. 422; Strabo, 
Lib. v. 1 ; Noel Desvergers, “ Hist, de TArabie.” 



vation being impossible on a barren soil deprived of 
vegetable humus and moisture, man is doomed to the 
shepherd’s trade. But the pasturage, composed of 
sickly herbs growing in depressions sheltered from the 
wind, are of short duration and small extent. The 
flocks eat them down in a few days, when the shepherd 
must set about finding others ; hence the necessity of 
being always on the move. When a pasture is 
found, he must make sure of its possession against 
other rivals, and, on occasion, use violence. It is a 
life of fever and of fighting, a rough and dangerous 

But seldom can the Bedouin satisfy his hunger; 
he has everything to fear from nature and from man. 
Like a wild beast, he lives in a state of perpetual 
watchfulness. He relies chiefly upon robbery. Too 
poor to satisfy his desires, devoid of resources in an 
ill-favoured country, he is always ready to seize any 
chance that offers — a camel strayed from the herd 
provides him with a feast of meat : a sudden dash 
upon a caravan or the douar (camp) of a sedentary 
tribe furnishes him with dates, spices and women. 

The practice of arms and the hard training he has 
always to live in have developed his warlike faculties ; 
and, as it is these that enable him to triumph over 
the dangers of his wandering life and to procure the 
only satisfactions possible in the desert, he has come 
to consider them as his ideal. 

The coward and the cripple are doomed to 
contempt and death. The respect of his neighbour 
is in proportion to the fear with which he inspires 
him. To win the praise of poets and the love of 
wojnen, he must be a brilliant horseman, skilled in 
the use of sword and spear. 

The women themselves have caught some- 
thing of the martial spirit of their husbands and 


brothers ; 1 marching in the rearguard they tend the 
wounded and encourage their fighting men by reciting 
verses of a wild energy: “Courage,” they chant, 
“ defenders of women. Strike with the edge of 
your swords. We are the daughters of the morning 
star; our feet tread upon soft cushions; our necks 
are decked with pearls; our hair is perfumed with 
musk. The brave who face the enemy, we press 
them in our arms ; the base who flee, we cast them 
off and we deny them our love .” 2 

The necessity of providing for his own needs 
makes the Bedouin an active man; he is patient 
because of the sufferings he has to endure ; he accepts 
the inevitable without vain recriminations . 8 It is, 
not Islam that has created fatalism, but the desert ; 
Islam has done no more than accept and sanction a 
state of mind characteristic of the nomad. His 
adventurous life gives the Bedouin courage, boldness, 
and if not contempt for death, at any rate a certain 
familiarity with it. Necessity compels him to be 
selfish. The available pasturage is too scanty to be 
shared, he keeps it for himself and his own people ; 
it is the same with the watering place. He kills his 
infant daughters, who are the source of difficulties ; 
and sometimes even his little boys, when the family 
is becoming too numerous. Hard on himself, he is 
hard upon others too; holding his life so cheap, he 
thinks nothing of his neighbour’s. “ Never has lord 
of our race died in his bed,” says a poet. “ On the 
blades of swords flows our blood, and our blood flows 
only over sword-blades.”* f 

“We have risen,” says another poet, “ and our 

1 Dozy. u Hist, des Musulmana d’Espagne, t. pp, 16, *\L7 j 
Perron, “ Les femmes Arabes avant Plslamisme.” 

2 Gaussin de Perceval, “ Essai sur PHist. dea Arabes avant 
PIslanlisme, ,, t. ii., p. 281. 

3 Herder, “ Idees sur la philosophie d© PHistoire,” p. 243. 

4 El Samaoual. 



arrows have flown ; the blood which stains our 
garments scents us more sweetly than the odour of 
musk .” 1 

“ I was made of iron,” Antar exclaims, “ and of 
a heart more stubborn still ; I have drunk the blood 
of mine enemies in the hollow of their skulls and am 
not surfeited.” 

In illustration of this insensibility may be quoted 
two incidents in the life of Mahomet : Seven hundred 
Coraidite Jews who had been taken prisoner, were 
having their throats cut by the side of long graves, 
under the eyes of the Prophet ; as night was falling, 
he had torches brought, so as not to put off the 
mournful business till the morrow . 3 A number of 
Arab captives, taken at Beder, were being put to 
death, to one of them who begged for mercy the 
Prophet said : “I thank the Lord that he has 
delighted my eyes by thy death”; and when the 
dying man asked who would take care of his little 
•child, Mahomet replied : “ The fire of hell .” 3 

The solitary life of the Bedouin has developed 
his spirit of independence ; in the desert the individual 
is free ; he obeys no government ; he escapes all laws. 
There is but one rule — the rule of the strongest . 4 

Sometimes, when their independence was 
threatened by neighbouring nations, Romans, 
Persians or Abyssinians, the tribes assembled 
together to defend their liberty, but as soon as 
the danger was past they dispersed. When Abraha- 
el-Achram invaded the Hedjaz with forty thousand 
Abyssinians, and after having reduced Tebala and 
Taief set himself to penetrate the fortress of Mecca, 


1 Safy H Dine II Holli. 

2 Savary, Koran, p. 47. 

8 Haines, “ Islam a Missionary Religion/ 5 p. 36. 

4 G. Sale, (t Observations historiques et critiques sur le 
Mah.o^l4tisIae. ,, 



the neighbouring tribes leagued together under the 
command of Abd-el-Mottaleb ; but when once the 
enemy had been driven back, the tribes resumed 
their liberty . 1 

This spirit of independence, this exaggerated 
development of individuality appears at every turn 
in the course of Arab history. The Caliphs had to 
struggle without ceasing against the turbulence of 
the tribes, who were hostile to all regular government 
and incapable of submitting to discipline. It was 
these tribal rivalries that in the end broke up 
the unity of the Empire by adding an element of 
disturbance to the disruptive forces of the conquered 

The spirit of anarchy is characteristic of the 
Semite ; 2 wherever he rules, there follows disorder 
and revolution. Jewish history, and that of 
Carthage, provide us with numerous examples ; 
and, nearer our own time, the crisis of authority that 
has overturned Russia, has recruited its most 
powerful leaders and theorists from the Jewish 

Any concentration of population is impossible in 
the desert owing to the lack of resources ; at the same 
time, an isolated individual would be too feeble to 
contend with the dangers of a wandering life. 
Hence the Bedouins have been obliged to group 
themselves in families, and this is the basis of their 
social organization. The family enlarged has grown 
into the tribe, but the members of the same tribe do 
not all live together ; they form small family groups 
united by the solidarity of birth and community of 
interests. r 

All the individuals of a tribe recognize the same 

1 Sedillot, “ Histoire des Aralies,” t. i., p. 43. 

2 Renan, “ Etudes d’histoire religiouse.” 



common ancestor; they call this acabia, congenital 
solidarity, a rudimentary form of patriotism. In 
this way the Koreich, to whom Mahomet belonged, 
trace their descent back to Fihr-Koreich, of tradition- 
ally free origin, for he was regarded as the descendant 
of Ishmael by Adnan, Modher, etc . 1 The members 
of the same tribe are, literally, brothers; moreover 
this is the name by which men of the same age address 
each other. When an old man speaks to a young 
one, he calls him “ Son of my brother.” 

The Bedouin is ready to make any sacrifice for 
his tribe; for its glory or its prosperity this egoist 
will risk his life and property. “ Love your tribe,” 
says a poet, “for you are bound to it by ties 
stronger than any existing between husband and 
wife .” 2 

Throughout the whole course of Musulman 
history, wherever the Arabs are found, in Syria, 
in Spain, or in Africa, one notes the devotion of the 
individual to his tribe, at the same time as the rivalry 
between the different tribes. The notable upon 
whom the Caliph has been pleased to confer a high 
appointment loses no time in devoting himself to the 
interests of his own tribe, and at once arouses the 
anger of the others, who intrigue against him until 
they procure his disgrace, when the game begins over 
again with somebody else. 

The Bedouin lives for himself and his tribe, 
beyond it he has no friends ; his neighbour is the man 
of his tribe, his relation. Faithfulness to his pledged 
word, honesty and frankness only concern members 
of the tribe, the contributes . 3 

Each tribe selects as its chief the most intelligent, 

1 iSeignette, u Traduction de Sidi Khalil/* p. 708* 

2 Abu 5 Labbas Mobamed, surnamed Mobarred, quoted by Ebn 
Khallikan in (t La vie des homines illustr6s. ,, 

3 Dozy, op. cit. p. 40. 



the most active and the bravest of its members, that 
is to say, the one best able to serve it. This is the 
boasted Amenokal ; 1 2 he is not nominated until the 
actual election, a principle which was afterwards 
maintained in the selection of the earlier Caliphs. 
But his authority amounts to just what is possible 
among people thirsting for independence ; his counsels 
are listened to ; they are sometimes followed ; he is 
not always obeyed. 

The possession of wealth confers no title to public 
esteem, in the first place because it does not procure 
any particular enjoyment. What is the good of 
being rich in a place where there is nothing? The 
Bedouin who owns ten camels is just as happy as the 
man who owns a hundred, since all the advantage he 
can derive from them is confined to the milk on which 
he feeds himself and the fleece from which he makes 
his clothing. Besides, wealth is unstable. Repre- 
sented solely by flocks and herds, it is at the mercy of 
an epizootic, or of a raid. “ When some hostile tribe 
attacks his own and takes from him all that he 
possesses, he, who yesterday was rich, finds himself 
suddenly reduced to beggary .” 3 But though he 
may be ruined, the Bedouin does not despond, he 
has still his strength and boldness ; stripped bare 
to-day, to-morrow he will avenge himself upon his 
enemy or on somebody else. He has, moreover, a 
high opinion of his person; he is a proud man. 
Pride is a Semitic failing ; the Semite has always 
considered himself as of a superior race, the chosen of 
God . 8 This accounts for the religious intransigence 
of the Jew and the Musulman. “ The Bedouin 
considers himself far superior not only to his slavfe, 

1 Pellissier de Heynaud, “Annales Alg&riennes,” t. iii., p. 429. 

2 Burekhardt. “ Ts'otes on the Bedouins,” p. 40. 

a Bide, il La fin dea Religions/’ p, 12. 



but to all men of alien race; he claims to have 
been made from a different clay from the rest of 
humanity .” 1 He is temperate because he cannot be 
otherwise; but in reality he is a sensualist. In his 
adventurous excursions, under a burning sun, through 
barren regions, he appreciates the value of assured 
delights. His ideal is the simple one of a man of no 
possessions : to eat, to drink and to sleep. As a 
wandering horseman he longs to rest upon soft 
cushions; in a chronic state of semi-starvation, he 
dreams of savoury dishes heaped-up; parched with 
thirst, he longs for the coolness of never-failing 
springs. In a country where the beauty of the 
women lasts about as long as the roses, he dreams of 
women who never grow old. In short, he is a lover 
of free indulgence, who will stick at nothing to 
obtain the satisfaction of his desires.* 

At fifty-three years of age, Mahomet fell in love 
with a little girl of eight, Aisha. She seemed so 
young even in the eyes of the Arabs, that the Prophet, 
in spite of his authority, had to wait eight months 
before consumating his marriage . 3 One hardly 
likes to think of what the cohabitation of an 
impassioned old man with such a child can have been 
during the eight months of waiting. 

One day, Mahomet cast his eye upon Zineb, the 
wife of Zaid, a young man whom he had adopted. 
As the Prophet desired her, Zaxd made haste to put 
her away, when the Prophet promptly married her, 
notwithstanding murmurs of disapproval among Ms 

In Syria, in Spain, and in Egypt, countries of 
abundance, the Arabs very soon abandoned their 

1 Dozy, “ Hist, des Musulmans d'Espagne,” t. i., p. 8 ; 

a Palgrave, (i A Year's Journey through Central Arabia.” 

3 Ahiufeda, “ Vie de Mahomet.” 

4 Koran, Surat, xxxiii. 


habits of sobriety and plunged into the worst 

Mahomet declared that he loved three things 
better than all else : perfumes, women and flowers. 
This might be the Bedouin’s device ; it is at any rate 
his ideal, and the Prophet did not forget it. His 
paradise is a place of carnal pleasures and material 
enjoyments, such as a nomad of the desert pictures 
to himself. 

Ceaselessly absorbed by the cares of his 
adventurous life, the Bedouin concerns himself 
only with immediate realities. He fights to live and 
cares but little for philosophy. He is a realist, and 
not a theorist; he acts and has no time to think. 
His faculties of observation have been developed at 
the expense of his imagination, and without imagin- 
ation no progress is possible. It is this that explains 
the stagnation of the Bedouin over whom centuries 
pass without in any way changing his mode of life . 1 
The Arab is in fact totally devoid of imagination ; a 
contrary opinion is generally held and must be 
revised. The impetuosity of his nature, the warmth 
of his passions, the ardour of his desires have caused 
him to be credited with a disordered imagination. 
His language, poor in abstract words, and only able 
to express an idea exactly by the help of similes and 
comparisons, has maintained the illusion. Never- 
theless, the Arab is the least imaginative of beings ; 
his brain is dry; he is no philosopher; and he has 
never put forth an original thought, either in religion 
or in literature. 

Before Islam, the Bedouin, just emerged from 
Totemism, worshipped divinities personifying the 
heavenly bodies or natural phenomena : the stars, 
thunder, the sun, etc. But he has never had a 

1 Dozy, u Essai stir PHistoire de 



mythology. Among the Greeks, the Hindus, the 
Scandinavians, the gods have a past, a history; man 
has moulded them to his own likeness, he has 
given them his passions, his virtues, and even his 
vices. The gods of the Bedouin have no distinctive 
character; they are mournful divinities, one fears 
them, hut one knows them not. The Arab Pantheon 
is inhabited by lifeless dolls, of whom, moreover, the 
greater part were brought in from outside, notably 
from Syria . 1 

Further, the Bedouin had not much respect for 
his idols; he was quite ready to cheat them by 
sacrificing a gazelle when he had promised them a 
sheep, and to abuse them when they did not respond 
to his wishes. When Amrolcais set out to avenge 
the murder of his father, on the Beni-Asad, he 
stopped at the temple of the idol Dhou-el-Kholosa 
to consult fate by means of the three arrows, called 
“ command,” “ prohibition ” and “ wait.” Having 
drawn “ prohibition,” which forbade his projected 
vengeance, he tried again; but “ prohibition ” came 
out three times running; he then broke the arrows 
and throwing the pieces at the idol’s head, cried : 

“ Wretch ! if it had been your father that had been , 
killed, you would not have forbidden me to avenge 
him .” 2 

There is the same absence of imagination in the 
conception of Islam ; its very simplicity is a reflection 
of the Arab brain ; whilst its dogmas are borrowed 
from other religions. The principle of the unity of 
God is of 'Sabean origin; as is also the Musulman 
prayer and the fast of Ramadhan . 3 If the mosque 

* u Lenomant,” p. 469; Fresnel, “ Lettres snr Phist. dea Arabes 
ay&nt PIsla'mis^ne. ,, 

2 Dozy, Hist, des Mnsnlmans d’Espajme,” t. i., pp. 21-22. 

3 Benan, u Etudes d’histoire religiouse.” 


is without adornment, that is not from any pre- 
meditated design, but simply because the Arab is 
incapable of adorning it; it is bare like the desert, 
bare like the Bedouin brain. 

The Arab conception of the world was borrowed 
from the Sabeans and the Hebrews. The religious 
sects that came into being under the later Caliphs, 
and whose subtle doctrines exhibit an overflowing 
imagination, are of Indian and Egyptian inspira- 
tion. They represent exactly a reaction on the part 
of the subject peoples against the barrenness and 
poverty of the Musulman dogma and the Arab 

In literature there is the same intellectual destitu- 
tion. The Arab poets describe what they see and 
what they feel; but they invent nothing; if some- 
times they venture on a flight of imagination, their 
fellow-countrymen treat them as liars. Any aspira- 
tion .towards the infinite, towards the ideal, is 
unknown to them; and what they have always 
considered as of most consequence, even from the 
remotest times, is not invention but precision and 
elegance of expression, the technique of their art. 
Invention is so rare a quality in Arab literature that 
when one does meet with a poem or a story in which 
fancy forms any considerable element, it is safe to 
say at once that the work is not original, but a 
translation. Thus in the “ Arabian Nights ” all the 
fairy-tales are of Persian or Indian origin; in this 
great collection the only stories that are really Arab 
are those depicting manners and customs, and 
anecdotes taken from real life. 

The oldest monument of pre-Islamic poetry, the 
Moallakat, are poor rhapsodies copied from one 
model : when you have read one of them you know 
the rest. The poet begins by celebrating his for- 



saken dwelling, the spring where man and beast 
come to quench their thirst, then the charms of his 
mistress, and finally his horse and his arms . 1 

“ When the Arabs, by virtue of the sword, had 
established themselves in immense provinces and 
turned their attention to scientific matters, they 
displayed the same absence of creative power. They 
translated and commented upon the works of the 
ancients; they enriched certain special subjects by 
patient, exact and minute observation; but they 
invented nothing; we owe to them no great and 
fruitful idea .” 3 

From what has gone before, we may sum up the 
characteristics of the Bedouin in a few essential 
traits : he is a nomad and a fighter, incessantly 
preoccupied by the anxiety of finding some means 
of subsistence and of defending his life against man 
and nature; he leads a rough life full of danger. 
His faculties of struggle and resistance are highly 
developed, namely physical strength, endurance and 
powers of observation. Necessity has made him a 
robber, a man of prey; he stalks his game when 
he espies a caravan or the douar (camp) of some 
sedentary tribe. Like a wild beast, he sees a 
chance when it arises. 

An egoist, his social horizon stops at the tribe, 
beyond which he knows neither friend nor neigh- 
bour. A realist, he has no other ideal than the 
satisfaction of his material wants — to eat, to drink, 
and to sleep. Having no time for thought or 
contemplation, his brain has become atrophied; he 
acts on the spur of the moment, we might almost 
say by his reflexes ; he is totally devoid of imagina- 
tion and of the creative faculty. 

* See translation of tlie Moallakat by Canssrin de Perceval. 

2 Doi&y, loc. eit. pp. 13-14; Sedillot, u Hisrt. des Arab©*/’ II. > 
pp. 1% 19, and 82; 



Finally, a simple creature, not far from primitive 
animality — a barbarian. Such is the man who has 
conceived Islam and who by the strength of his arm 
and the sharpness of his sword, has carved out of the 
world this Musulman Empire. 


Arabia in the time of Mahomet — No Arab nation — A dust of 
tribes without ethnic or religious bonds — A prodigious 
diversity of cults and beliefs — Two mutually hostile 
groups ; Yemenites and Moaddites — Sedentaries and 
nomads — Rivalry of the two centres : Yathreb and Mecca 
— Jewish and Christian propaganda at Yathreb — Life of 
the Meccans — Their evolution — Federation of the Fodhoul 
— The precursors of Islam. 

K NOWING the desert and the Bedouin, it is 
not impossible perhaps to form some idea 
of what Arabia must have been in the time 
of Mahomet. There was no such thing as 
an Arab nation, if by that name we mean an 
aggregation of persons subject to a regular govern- 
ment, knowing themselves to be of common origin 
and pursuing the same ideal. Caussin de Perceval, 
who has collected into three volumes the chronicles 
relating to pre-Islamic times, has been unable to 
draw from these documents any ensemble of facts 
linked together logically that would convey the 
impression of a nation . 1 There is nothing but a 
dust, as it were, of tribes without connecting ties, 
without solidarity, in continuous conflict for trivial 
objects : cattle-lifting, abduction of women, disputed 
watering-places and pastures . 2 There is no com- 
munity of origin, none of those traditions handed 
on from generation to generation that produce 

1 Oaussin de Perceval, <c Essai sur PHist. des Arahes tfcvant 
^Islamisme. ,, 

z Prideaux, u Vic de Mahomet ” ; Ockley, “ Hist, des San-azins.” 



A barbarous country, cast like a barrier into the 
midst of the ancient civilizations of Asia and the 
Mediterranean, protected by its deserts from in- 
vasion and with barely accessible coasts, Arabia has 
served as a place of refuge for all fugitive peoples, 
oppressed or dispersed from Persia, India, Syria and 
Africa ; 1 too poor or too savage she has escaped the 
great conquerors. Part of Syria was indeed under 
the rule of the Greek Emperors of Constantinople ; 
the Arab coast of the Persian Gulf was under the 
domination of the kings of Persia; and a portion of 
the Red Sea littoral was for a time under the Chris- 
tian kings of Abyssinia; but the influence of these 
conquerors was always confined to these restricted 
regions . 2 The ambition of the invaders was broken 
at the coast, and discouraged by the poverty of the 
country. “What is there to be found in your 
country? ” asked a certain king of Persia of an Arab 
prince who had applied for the loan of some troops 
and offered in return the possession of a province. 
“ Sheep and camels ! I am not going to risk my 
armies in your deserts for such a trifle .” 3 The 
only people who came to stay were fugitives and 
wanderers, all the wreckage of the old civilizations. 

In the attempt to extract some general idea from 
the rubbish-heap of the Arab chronicles we may 
succeed in arranging these scattered families in two 
principal groups : the Yemenites, and the Moaddites . 4 
The former, the Aribas of the Musulman writers, 
that is to say the Arabs properly so called, came 
from Irak and India two thousand years before the 
Christian era; they reigned in Babylon in 2218 B.C., 
and in Egypt at the same period under the name of 

1 Herder, " Iddea sur la philosophic de PHistoire,” p. 420. 

a Lenormant, op. oit. t. v p. 337. 

3 Dozy, op. dt. p. 47. 

4 Sedillot, lt Hist. General© des Arabes/* t. i., p. 24. 


the Shepherd Kings. They established themselves 
in the Yemen, but were driven out later and dis- 
persed over the whole of Arabia . 1 The latter, the 
Moustaribas of the Musulman chroniclers, that is to 
say “those who had become Arabs,” came from 
Syria and Chaldea. A section of these immigrants, 
to which the ancestors of Mahomet belonged, 
claimed to be descended from Ishmael, the son of 
Abraham . 2 

A lively antipathy separated these two ethnic 
groups. The Yemenites had as their centre 
Yathreb, which subsequently became Medina : the 
Moaddites had Mecca. The Yemenites, estab- 
lished in fertile regions, became a settled people 
devoted to agriculture ; the Moaddites were nomads, 
shepherds and camel-drivers. 

This is merely an outline sketch; in reality, all 
these tribes, of whatever origin, lived in a state of 
the most complete anarchy — the anarchy of the 
Semite . 3 Without any bond to unite them, with 
no past, and with none of those great traditions 
that float like a flag over succeeding generations, 
constituting a common patrimony of pride and 
glory, these robbers and camel-drivers, shepherds and 
husbandmen, living from hand to mouth, have no 
history; their monotonous existence — a struggle for 
daily bread — leaves no more trace than the camel 
tracks on the sand of the desert dunes. 

There is not even any religious connection ; 4 each 
tribe had its protecting idol, a vague souvenir of the 
worship of their forefathers. Here and there a few 
Jewish tribes from Syria, some Christian tribes from 

1 Sylvestre de Saey, “ Memoire mr 1’Histoire des Arabes avant 
Mahomet.” , , « 

3 Kazimirsky, (t Introduction a la traduction du Koran, p. o. 

3 See Diodorus of Sicily, Liv. ii. ; Herodotus, Lib. iii. ; Strabo, 
Lib. xvi. : Dion Cassius, Lib. liii. 

4 Burokhardt, op. cit. p. 160. 



Syria or Abyssinia, with others from Persia devoted 
to Sabeism or Manicheeism, presented a prodigious 
diversity of worship and belief. There was no 
government, no social organization beyond the 
family and the tribe. Neither art nor literature is 
to be found among men absorbed by the anxieties of 
a dangerous life ; there are indeed a few rhapsodical 
poems bearing a distant resemblance to the songs 
of our troubadours. There was no other ideal than 
the satisfaction of immediate wants, no aim in life 
beyond the pursuit of the daily subsistence — a prey, 
a lucky dash, a copious meal, such was their ideal ; 
it might perhaps suffice for an individual shrunk into 
his own egoism, it could never be the ideal of a 
nation . 1 

These warriors and robbers were willing epicures, 
and their poets would seem to draw their inspiration 
from the same source as Horace : “ Let us enjoy 

the present, for death will soon be upon us .” 2 How- 
ever, in the midst of this general anarchy of tribes, 
wandering or sedentary, one fact has stood out 
clearly from the remotest ages — the antagonism of 
the Yemenites and the Moaddites; it is the old 
quarrel between the settled people and the nomads, 
between the husbandman and the shepherd. This 
antagonism was carried on into the conflict between 
Yathreb and Mecca. 

Yathreb, more favoured than Mecca as regards 
climate, built against the moist mountain mass of 
Nejed, was surrounded by fertile lands. Its 
inhabitants devoted themselves to agriculture and 
petty trading, and as these are stationary occupa- 
tions, they became sedentary. Their manners grew 
gentler, so much so that after centuries of quiet life, 

1 Burckhardt, op. cit. p. 41, 

* Moallaka of Amr-Ibn-Kolthoum . 



they constituted at the time of Mahomet a peaceable 
population of cultivators, artisans and small shop- 
keepers. 1 The Jews and Christians, who had come 
in considerable numbers from Syria, propagated 
their religious doctrines; and the Christian ideas of 
human brotherhood and forgiveness of injuries had 
in a vague way got into men’s minds. The Jews, 
cradled in the old Messianic tradition, spoke freely 
of the coming appearance of a messenger from God. 
The worship of idols, undermined by both Jews and 
Christians, was to -a certain extent abandoned. In 
short, in a period of general anarchy, Yathreb was a 
town in which order was maintained, and was the 
most peaceable city in Arabia. 2 

Mecca, 250 miles to the south-west, lying in a 
sandy hollow, surrounded by bare and barren hills, 
was the abode of unruly men engaged in stock- 
breeding and the important caravan traffic. In 
contact with sea-faring nations through its port of 
Djeddah, it had become the principal entrepot of 
whatever trade there was at that time between the 
Indies and the countries of the West — Syria, Egypt 
and even Italy. 3 To Mecca came the caravans from 
India and Persia, laden with a precious freight of 
ivory, gold-dust, silks and spices. 

The men of Yathreb, wishing to share these 
tempting profits, had tried hard to divert a portion 
of the traffic to their city; in this they had not 
succeeded, for three reasons : firstly, because the 
caravans preferred Mecca as a sort of half-way 
house. Lying at an equal distance of thirty days’ 
march from the Yemen and from Syria, it allowed 
them whether on the outward or on the return 

1 Larroque, “ Voyage dans la Palestine,” p. 110. 

3 G. Bale, “ Observations Mst. et critiques sur le Mahometisme, 

p. 473 » 

8 Carlyle, ic Heroes,” p. 80. 



journey, to winter in Yemen and to spend the 
summer in Syria . 1 Secondly, because the Meccans, 
being enterprising people, did not wait for the great 
caravans, but organized small private caravans of 
their own, bartering the products of Syria, Egypt 
and Abyssinia against those of the Euphrates valley, 
of Persia and of India. The camels of the Koreich 
were loaded with costly burdens in the markets of 
Sana and Merab, and in the ports of Oman and 
Aden . 2 The people of Mecca became the carriers 
of the desert, the brokers between the peoples of 
Asia and the Mediterranean. The men of Yathreb, 
husbandmen and small shopkeepers, were incapable 
of any such enterprise. Finally, because Mecca had 
always been from the remotest ages, a place of 
pilgrimage, to which men repaired to bow down in 
the temple of the Kaaba before a certain black stone 
said to have been brought down from heaven in the 
time of Abraham by the servants of God Almighty.* 
Diodorus of Sicily records that, in the lifetime of 
Caesar, the Kaaba was the most frequented temple 
in Arabia. The Koreich, the tribe to which 
Mahomet belonged, were the guardians of this 
temple, an office that brought them in appreciable 

Thus both religion and commerce made Mecca an 
important social centre, bringing her great pros- 
perity, and thereby exciting the envy of the men of 
Yathreb. They detested the Meccans, who returned 
the sentiment with interest. Moreover, they dis- 
liked them for their licentious mode, of living. 
Rich, broad-minded, troubled by few scruples, 
idolaters, recognizing no law beyond the saiis- 

1 Q ot ’ B Eddin Mohammed El Mekki, “ Hist, de la Mekke ” 

J Massouai, 

ArabS^pNlT dt ' t- iv P ‘ 12 5 Dr - Lebon > “ La Civilization dea 



faction of their own desires, the Meccans were 
hedonists, holding in contempt the refinements of 

A poem of the period gives an exact idea of their 
moral state : “In the morning, when you come,” 
says the poet to his friend, “ I will offer you a 
brimming cup of wine, and if you have already 
enjoyed this liquor in deep draughts, never mind; 
you shall begin again with me. The companions of 
my pleasures are young men of noble blood, whose 
faces shine like the stars. Every evening, a singer, 
dressed in a striped robe and a saffron-coloured tunic, 
comes to brighten our company. Her dress is open 
at the throat; she allows amorous hands to stray 
freely o’er her charms. ... I have devoted myself 
to wine and pleasure; I have sold all I possessed, I 
have dissipated what wealth I acquired myself as 
well as that which I inherited. You, Censor, who 
blame my passion for pleasure and fighting, can you 
make me immortal? If all your wisdom cannot 
stave off the fatal moment, leave me in peace to 
squander everything on enjoyment before death can 
reach me. To-morrow, severe Censor, when we 
shall both of us die, we shall see which of us two will 
be consumed by a burning thirst .” 1 

The men of Yathreb were narrow-minded, of the 
peasant and shopkeeping spirit, and were moreover 
influenced by Jewish and Christian propaganda; 
they lived parsimoniously on small profits and quick 
returns. Compared to the wealthy caravan-owners 
of Mecca; who were great business schemers, 
they were small men, of austere morals, of regular 
habits, peaceable temperament and affable . 2 The 
Meccans treated them with sovereign contempt, as 

1 Tarafi-L. 

2 Es~Sahmoudi, “ Hist, de la Medine. Trad. Wtistenfeld.” 


misers, cowards and eunuchs. Returning insult for 
insult, the men of Yathreb 'called them bandits and 

Religion was dragged into the quarrel. The Jews 
established in Yathreb had succeeded in converting 
certain families of the Aus and the Khazdradj. The 
Meccans, attached to the old idolatrous worship, not 
from religious conviction but by mundane interest, 
since the Ivaaba attracted many visitors and 
customers, took advantage of these conversions to 
lash their adversaries with the epithet of Jews. 

The rivalry between Yathreb and Mecca was of 
considerable importance ; for, in the midst of general 
disorder these two towns represented the only centres 
of Arab thought. It was their quarrels that 
favoured the development of Islam, and at a later 
date became the cause of troubles and divisions in 
the Musulman Empire. If Mahomet, disowned by 
the Meccans, hunted and threatened with death, had 
not found refuge and support at Medina, it is more 
than probable that his great adventure would have 
miscarried, and that his name would have fallen into 
oblivion like those of so many other prophets of the 
same period. 

Owing to their enterprising spirit, the Meccans 
soon became very rich. The caravan trade, doubled 
by the trade in slaves, returned huge profits. These 
Bedouins became all at once merchant princes, and 
gave themselves corresponding airs. 

Prosperity has its effect upon character ; it 
diminishes the fighting spirit, and produces a con- 
servative tendency. One does not risk one’s life 
without thinking twice about it, except when one has 
nothing to lose; bellicose nations are always the 
poorest, and among fighting men the keenest in a 
raid are those who are not yet loaded up with booty. 



The well-to-do man wishes to enjoy his competence, 
and this he can only do when order and security pre- 
vail. Having acquired wealth, the men of Mecca 
intended to live a pleasant life; their interests were 
seriously compromised by the general state of anarchy 
that prevailed, under cover of which their caravans 
were being held up to ransom by robber bands, and 
by the conflicts between tribes which also interfered 
with their traffic. They were very indignant at these 
acts of brigandage on the part of the Bedouins, and 
preached respect for the property of others. Being 
men of action, the Meccans were not content merely 
to advocate the principles of order, they took steps 
to impose them. With this object several important 
personages of the tribe of the Koreich founded a sort 
of league, in a.d. 595, called Hilfel Fodhoul, or the 
Fodhoul federation. The Fodhoul intended to com- 
bat by every available means the anarchy that was so 
injurious to trade and consequently to their interests ; 
they first attempted to suppress, or at least to reduce 
the conflicts between tribes by instituting truces, or 
suspensions of hostilities, under the most diverse 
pretexts : such as the Holy Month, a pilgrimage, 
important markets, etc. 1 They even strove to bring 
" the tribes together in groups, to federate them, using 
different methods to secure their object. 

They began with what one might call an appeal 
to Arab patriotism; that is, to their hatred of the 
foreigner. In this connection an event occurred that 
favoured their projects. The Abyssinians, led by 
the Negus Abrahah, had made an attempt to take 
Mecca, whose wealth excited their envy. The neigh- 
bouring tribes, under the threat of a common danger, 
had agreed to combine under the leadership of Abd- 

1 ;\1 Kazouini and A1 Shahrasfc&ni, 



el-Mottaleb, and had repulsed the enemy. The 
Negus having then turned his arms against the 
Yemen, had been driven out by the tribes united 
under the command of a Hemyarite prince . 1 On 
receiving news of this last success, Abd-el-Mottaleb 
went in person to Saana to congratulate the 
Hemyarite prince in the name of the Koreich. This 
was a noteworthy step, as signifying solidarity, when 
sons of the same Fatherland drew together in 
mutual understanding. As soon as the enemy had 
been driven out, the tribes at once resumed their 
liberty ; but the Fodhoul, encouraged by the success 
of their initiative, set to work to exploit the Bedouin 
sentiment of xenophobia. Circumstances favoured 
their propaganda, since the Abyssinians on the 
west, the Greeks on the north, and the Persians on 
the east were all threatening Arabia. The Fodhoul 
were also contemplating a unification of the language, 
as a means of bringing the tribes together. People 
can only agree when they understand each other, and 
for this to be possible they must speak the same 
language. But Arabia was a perfect Babel of 
different dialects ; the thread running through them 
all was certainly Arabic, but debased in each tribe by 
mispronunciation, or by the use of local expressions, 
to such an extent that a Bedouin of Nejed could not 
understand a man from the Hedjaz, and the latter 
could not make himself understood by his fellow- 
countryman of the Yemen . 2 3 

The Fodhoul made very clever use of the poets, a 
sort of bards or troubadours, who sang the exploits of 
warriors and of lovers in every tribe. “ These bards 

1 Oaussm de Perceval, op. cit. : Sylrestre de Sacy. u Memoir© 

sur Wrist, des Arabes.” 

3 Sylvestre de Sacy, “ Hist, des Arabes avant Mahomet.” 



were commissioned to create a more general language. 
Their verses, which were recited everywhere, were 
to fix once for all the words intended to represent 
ideas : when several families made use of two different 
words to express the same idea, the word the bard 
had chosen was the one to be adopted, and thus the 
Arab language was gradually formed .” 1 

Finally, the Fodhoul tried to create unity of 
religion — a difficult task — as each idolatrous tribe 
had its own protecting divinity; but there were 
Jewish tribes at Yathreb and at Khaibar, Christian 
tribes in the Hedjaz and the Yemen, whilst 
the Sabean creed and Manicheeism counted their 
adherents on the shores of the Persian Gulf. Each 
tribe held to its own beliefs. The Fodhoul could 
not dream of fighting against idolatry, since the 
temple of the Kaaba brought many visitors to Mecca. 
As astute men, superior to vulgar superstition, they 
conceived the ingenious idea of melting all the 
different creeds together so as to make one, and thus 
satisfy everybody. They drew the outlines of a sort 
of Arab religion which, whilst respecting the ancient 
customs of the Bedouins, would find room for certain 
Sabean, Jewish, and Christian beliefs. That is how 
they came to adopt the Sabean principle of one God 
over all ; and the Messianic idea of the Jews as to the 
coming appearance of a prophet charged to establish 
the reign of justice. As certain tribes claimed to 
be descended from Abraham, they made a great 
deal of this patriarch, to please the Jews and 

It is evident that the Meccans, whose minds had 
been widened by foreign travel, were very clever 
men. In working, from commercial interests, for 

3 Sedillot, op. cit. p. 44. 



the rapprochement of the tribes and for a fusion of 
beliefs, they were, without suspecting it, clearing the 
ground for Islam. The Fodhoul were the precursors 
of Mahomet, who, moreover, being a member of 
their league, without doubt drew from this association 
many ideas the source of which could not be 
accounted for in any other way. 


Mahomet was a degenerate Bedouin of Mecca — Circumstances 
made him a man of opposition — His lonely and unhappy 
boyhood — Camel-driver and shepherd — His marriage to 
Khadija — His good fortune — How he conceived Islam — 
Islam was a reaction against the life of Mecca — His 
failures at Mecca — He betrays his tribe — His alliance 
with the men of Yathreb — His flight — First difficulties at 
Medina — How he had to resort to force — The principal 
cause of his success : the lure of booty — The ta kin g of 
Mecca — Triumph of the Prophet — His death . 1 

K NOWING the Bedouin of Mecca, that is to 
say the nomad transformed by city life, 
by long journeys abroad, and by wealth 
acquired in the caravan trade, it is possible 
to understand what Carlyle called “ The Man 
Mahomet.” Mahomet was a Bedouin of Mecca, but 
a degenerate Bedouin; and, in addition, he was 
through force of circumstances always in opposition 
to the environment in which he lived : a rebel against 

1 There is a great wealth of hooks dealing with Mahomet : 
Abulfeda, “ Life of Mahomet 55 ; Ibn-Hisnam, “ Sirat-el-Resul ” ; 
Tabari, “ Chronicle ” ; Gagnier, “ Life of Mahomet ” ; Prideaux, 
“ Life of Mahomet ” ; Boulainvilliers, “ Life of Mahomet” ; Turpin, 
“ History of the Life of Mahomet ” and “ History of A1 Koran ” ; 
Sprenger, f 1 Life and Education of Mahomet” and “ Mahomet and 
the<*Koran Weil, “ The Prophet Mahomet” and “History of the 
Islamic Peoples since Mahomet”; Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire, 
u Mahomet and the Koran ” ; Garcin de Tassy, “ A Statement of the 
Musulman Faith ” and t( Doctrines et devoirs de la religion 
mnsulman ” ; Castries, “ LTslam ” ; Cliarles Scholl, “ LTslam et 
son fondateur ” ; Malacca, “ Introduction a la traduction du 
Koran”; Oelsner, “Mahomet.” 



the only sentiment the Bedouins held in common- — 
tribal clanship. 

He misunderstood and tried to injure the interests 
of his tribe and of his native city. His propaganda 
was carried on against the Koreich and the Meccans, 
in spite of all they could do, with the support of 
their enemies. The reasons for his attitude may be 
easily explained. 

In comparison with the wealthy magnates of 
Mecca, Mahomet was a pauper. His family, the 
Hachems, formerly well-to-do, had fallen upon evil 
days, until they had become the poorest family in 
the Koreich. They were living upon the guardian- 
ship of the temple of the Kaaba, that is to say, upon 
the gifts of the pilgrims. 1 Mahomet’s childhood was 
passed in poverty and sadness ; to a feeble father and 
mother, weakened by privation and sedentary life, he 
owed a sickly constitution and excessive nervousness. 
Silent and impressionable, subject to epileptic attacks, 
his character became more gloomy still from the 
fact of his wretched condition. Loving solitude, 
“ always tormented by a vague uneasiness, weeping 
and sobbing like a woman when he was not well, 
wanting in courage, his character formed a strange 
contrast with that of the Arabs — hardy, energetic, 
and warlike, who knew nothing of day-dreams and 
considered it a shameful weakness that a man should 
shed tears, even for the loss of the objects of his most 
tender affection.” 2 

He was a degenerate Bedouin, stunted by a 
sedentary life. His youth was one long struggle 
against poverty. He lost his father two months 
after he was born (570), and six years later* his 
mother, Amina, a gentle, sickly creature subject to 

1 Weil, u Le Prophet© Mohammed.’ * 

2 Dozy, op. cit. 



hallucinations . 1 From his earliest years he knew the 
harsh lot of an orphan without means, in a community 
where power and wealth alone received consideration. 
He suffered in silence from his feebleness, his poverty 
and the contempt with which he was treated by the 
rich caravan-owners about him. He withdrew into 
himself ; his character hardened, and from that time 
he must have felt some animosity towards the people 
of Mecca. 

On the death of his mother (576), he was taken 
in by his grandfather, Abd-el-Mottaleb, a kind old 
man, who had no time to surround him with the 
family affection he needed, as he died three years 
later (579). Young Mahomet then passed into the 
family of his uncle, Abu-Taleb, who as a busy man 
of affairs had no time to waste in maudlin sentimen- 
tality. Being a man of action, he made what use he 
could of the child ; he made him a camel-driver, and 
it was in this capacity that Mahomet, between the 
age of ten and fourteen, made several journeys into 
Syria and the neighbouring countries. 

It is claimed, though without much probability, 
that in the course of these journeys he made the 
acquaintance of a Nertorian monk, who taught him 
the elements of Christianity . 2 Mahomet was then 
very young to get any good out of such lessons, and 
it is probable that later on he had better opportunities 
of getting to know the Christian principles in Arabia 
itself, where the followers of the Galilean were 
numerous. On his return from these journeys, Abu- 
Taleb having collected together the tribes around 
Mecca to repulse the Negus Abrahah’s Abyssinians, 
Mahomet had for the first time to face the dangers 
of war. Nervous, impressionable and sickly, he 

1 Kasimirsky, Introduction to the translation of the Koran* 
p. vii. 

2 Pride aux, ° Vie de Mahomet.” 



could not bear the sight of the battle-field; he ran 
away, and as this behaviour exposed him to the 
ridicule of his associates, he left his uncle’s service 
and did not go back to Mecca . 1 To gain his daily 
bread he had to become a shepherd : the poorest of 
trades and the humblest social position. He was 
then twenty-five years of age ( 595 ). He felt his 
position so humiliating that he accepted a job as 
assistant to a travelling cloth merchant named Saib. 
The chances of business led Saib and his new man to 
Hayacha, an important market to the south of 
Mecca; there Mahomet made the acquaintance of a 
rich widow, Khadija, who was engaged in the caravan 
trade. He entered her service, first as camel-driver, 
then as manager, and finally as partner . 2 He served 
her with devotion and gratitude, for he was grateful 
to her for having rescued him from misery. Khadija 
was forty, and in a country where feminine beauty 
fades so early she might have been considered an 
old woman ; still, passion was not yet extinct in her 

Like all neurotic subjects, Mahomet submitted to 
the influence of his surroundings and of circum- 
stances ; poverty had made him timid and taciturn ; 
prosperity gave him back his assurance, and an active 
life his vigour. Khadija fell in love with him ; it may 
have been the last passion of a woman before the 
inevitable renunciations of old age, or the necessity 
of taking a second husband to look after her interests. 
Mahomet, who had known the hard school of poverty, 
did not reject the opportunity that chance, had thrown 
in his way; he married Khadija. He married her 
more from gratitude than from love ; possibly interest 
may have had some share in his decision. 

1 Sprenger, ct Vie et enseignement de Mahomet.” 

3 Abulfeda, “ Vie de Mahomet/’ trad, Noel Devergers. 



Henceforth his future was assured. He devoted 
his energy and his intelligence to the development 
of his business. For ten years he led the rough 
and spacious life of a caravan leader. At thirty-five 
he was a rich man. He was at that time a fine 
strong fellow, hardened by misfortune, softened by 
experience, educated by travel and association with 
his fellow men, believing in his star, sure of his own 
ability and parts. His cousin Ali, son of Abu-Taleb, 
has drawn a living portrait of him : “He was of 
medium height, with a powerful head, a thick beard, 
his hands and feet rough; his bony frame denoted 
vigour; his countenance was ruddy. He had black 
hair, smooth cheeks and a neck like that of a silver 
urn .” 1 

From thirty-five to forty Mahomet enjoyed the 
comforts of his affluence, hut in a simple way, 
without ostentation. In his young days he had been 
offended by the ostentatious way in which the 
Meccans lived; he was careful not to fall into the 
same snare . 2 He lived, moreover, apart from his 
fellow-citizens and even from the people of his own 
tribe, whom he did not like, as the mere sight of 
them brought back recollections of his unhappy 
childhood. They on their part held him in but 
light esteem ; they had known him when he was poor, 
and they grudged him his rapid rise to fortune, 
accomplished without any assistance from them, by 
a marriage with an elderly widow, a ridiculous bargain 
in a country where masculine pride demands young 
virgins hardly yet veiled; they reproached him for 
his breakdown on the field of battle; some of them 
had seen him crying like a woman; in short, they 
looked upon him as an inferior being. 

1 Abulfeda, op. cit. p. 94. 

3 D© Castries, “ 17 Islam,” p. 49. 


Mahomet lived alone with Khadija, giving free 
rein to his dreamy and contemplative temperament. 
Every year, during the sacred month of Rhamadan, 
he withdrew to a mountain near Mecca, Mount Hira, 
whose caves provided a natural shelter. There in the 
solemn calm of silence and solitude, he remained 
whole days in meditation. It is not impossible to 
imagine the basis of his thoughts : he was certainly 
not dreaming the grandiose dreams that some 
historians have alleged. Islam did not spring all at 
once from his brain, like Minerva from the brain of 
Jove; he was not aiming so high nor so far ahead, 
and if the dim light that glimmered in one corner of 
his skull has since become a dazzling brilliancy, it has 
been due to circumstances that the future prophet 
neither foresaw nor could have foreseen. Devoid of 
imagination, like most of the Bedouins, it was not 
of the future that Mahomet was dreaming in his cave 
on Mount Hira, but of the past and of the present. 
He saw once more his youth of wretchedness, of 
privations and humiliations among the wealthy 
Meccans, at a time when, alone and poor, he had 
been obliged to accept the most humble employ- 
ments in order to keep body and soul together. 
He thought of the insolent pride of these caravan 
men, enriched by their boldness and by the renown 
amongst the idolatrous tribes of the temple of the 
Kaaba, that Pantheon of pagan divinities. He 
thought of the injustice of this barbarous society, 
where the weak were the victims of the strong. He 
thought of the abomination of the <> inter-tribal 
conflicts, and above all of that unhappy battle where 
he had gone through all the apprehension of fright 
and where he had incurred the disgrace of flight under 
the eyes of his fellow-citizens. Possibly he may have 
recalled to memory some of the ideas dear to the 



Fodhoul : the reconciliation of the tribes by the unity 
of beliefs and the pursuit of a common object; 
possibly also he may have thought of the propaganda 
of the Jews of Yathreb, in favour of one God . 1 One 
God ! that would mean the suppression of the idols 
of the Kaaba, it would be a blow dealt to the 
authority of Mecca. This idea pleased him as it 
gratified his spite ; and from the spirit of opposition, 
he was prepared to cherish any projects whose 
realization would injure the purse-proud Meccans : 
the equality of men, the condemnation of licentious 
life, the pulling down of the rich, the return to the 
pure morals of the earlier days of the ■world, of which 
the Jews and Christians sang the praises from their 
Bible : the generous aspirations that have at all 
epochs constituted the ideal of those whom life has 

These reflections probably alternated with 
hallucinations, crises of his nervous temperament, 
crises that are frequent in a debilitating climate, that 
in the sultry hours of the day afflict the mind with a 
torpid gloom, a state of half-sleep conducive to 
dreams and the seeing of visions. 

Another idea would be haunting his mind; the 
Jews, propagating their Messianic traditions, were 
announcing the coming appearance of a prophet who 
would re-establish the reign of justice. These 
traditions had found some credit among the Bedouins, 
especially at Yathreb, and Mahomet, desirous of 
playing a role, above all desirous of avenging the 
humiliations, he had suffered in times past, was 
perhaps led in a period of hallucination to believe 
himself to be this predestined man, this messenger 
from God . 2 

1 Weil, ic Hist, des Penples de PIslam depuis Mahomet.” 

3 Bflrth&emy S^intrHiJaire, il Mahomet et le Koran.” 


One day, on coming out of one of his trances, he 
told the story of it to Khadija : “ I was in a deep 
sleep when an angel appeared to me ; he held in his 
hand a piece of silken stuff, covered with written 
characters; he gave it to me saying: ‘Read.’ I 
asked him, ‘ What shall I read? ’ He wrapped me 
in the silk and repeated : 6 Read.’ I repeated 
my question: ‘What shall I read.’ He replied: 
‘ In the name of God who has created all things, 
who has created man of clotted blood, read, by the 
name of thy Lord who is generous ; it is He who has 
directed the scripture ; He has taught man that which 
he knew not.’ I pronounced these words after the 
angel and he departed. I awoke and went out to 
walk upon the mountain side; there I heard above 
my head a voice which said : ‘ Oh, Mohammed, thou 
art the man sent by God and I am Gabriel.’ I lifted 
up mine eyes and I saw the angel : I stood motionless, 
my gaze fixed upon him until he disappeared.” 

Khadija accepted the new faith; it would have 
been astonishing if she had not done so ; for, accord- 
ing to the manners of the period, a wife could not 
think differently from her husband : besides, Khadija 
was fifty-five, and she loved Mahomet. 

The second disciple of the new prophet was Zaid, 
his slave ; but a slave is certainly obliged to obey his 
master. The third disciple was Ali, the son of 
Abu-Taleb, a youth of sixteen, of an enthusiastic 
temperament who later on was to show a pronounced 
taste for adventure. Ali was the Don Quixote of 

After all, these three conversions Were hardly 
likely to draw the crowd by their example ; neverthe- 
less, Mahomet tried to convert his fellow-citizens. 
His efforts were received with laughter and low 
jokes, but he was pot discouraged. After three 



years of determined efforts he had succeeded in 
gathering round him thirteen followers, of whom 
all except Ali were persons of no consequence or 
influential connections. In his desire to play a bold 
stroke, he gave a banquet to forty notables of the 
Koreich tribe, and there, with great eloquence, he 
expounded his doctrine : The worship of idols is only 
a lie; the coarse images of wood and stone at the 
Kaaba are nothing but vain simulacra, without 
consciousness and without power. There is but one 
God who has created the world and man. He, 
Mahomet, was the Prophet, the Messenger of this 
one God. That is the true faith ; outside this all is 
error. Were the men of the Koreich ready to 
support this doctrine? If they were, their salvation 
was assured; if not, they would come to make 
acquaintance with the torments of burning Gehenna. 

Ali, alone of all those present, in obedience to his 
generous temperament, declared himself ready to 
defend the new belief. The others went into fits 
of laughter and made sarcastic replies to the summons 
of which they were the object. 

When the affair became known, the Meccans 
made great fun of these pretensions of the son of 
Abd’ Allah, of this once ragged lad who owed his 
fortune to his marriage with a decrepit widow, and 
who wept like a woman at the least provocation. A 
prophet! this former shepherd! a messenger from 
God? this coward who had fled from the battle-field ! 
Nonsense! he was overwhelmed with ribbald jeers . 1 
They were specially indignant that he should have 
dared to belittle the idols and to proclaim the 
existence of another divinity ; any such belief would 
bring ruin on the temple of the Kaaba and com- 
promise the prosperity of the town; to propagate it 

1 Qot'B Eddiu Moftammed El-Mekki. a Hist. de la Mecque/’ 

! 60 (j 


was, therefore, an injury to the community ; it was 
to ignore his sacred obligations to the tribe; to set 
himself in opposition to established usage ; to act the 
part of an enemy. Their laughter turned to indigna- 
tion; from laughing at this dreamer they came to 
look upon him as a traitor. Abu-Taleb, faithful to 
family clanship, could not forget that this erring soul 
was of his own blood, and tried by wise counsels to 
divert him from his ridiculous project; he advised 
him if he would not give up his ideas, at least to keep 
them to himself. Mahomet wept, but refused to 
renounce what he regarded as the true faith. Realiz- 
ing that he was not making any progress with the 
Koreich, he addressed himself to the strangers who 
frequented Mecca. He found complaisant listeners 
among the men of Yathreb, of whom some even 
promised him their support, and that for two reasons ; 
first, because the Jewish propaganda had accustomed 
them to the idea of one God and to the idea of a 
prophet sent by that God; then and especially, 
because the new faith vexed the people of Mecca, and 
struck a blow at the renown of the temple of the 
Kaaba. Mahomet, hated as he was at Mecca, became 
a valuable asset for Yathreb. 

These negotiations did not escape the notice 
of the Koreich, but added fuel to their hatred. 
Mahomet became in their eyes an enemy, a traitor 
to the most sacred obligations of family solidarity, a 
renegade who was deserting his tribe to come to 
terms with their bitterest enemies. The mob rose 
in riot against this wretch who attempted to interfere 
with his fellow men in the free enjoyment of their 
life ; their hatred increasing, he was denounced as 
an enemy of religion, an abominable blasphemer; 
he was made an outlaw, together with those who 
shared his views ; and, but for the influence of Abu- 



Taleb, he would have been killed. He realized 
the danger and fled. For months he lived out of 
Mecca, in the caves of Mount Hira, carrying on 
his propaganda among the caravans who passed 
within reach. 

During this time, Abu-Taleb, who believed his 
nephew to be out of his mind, made use of his 
authority to try and appease the anger against him. 
It was a difficult task; however, in 619 , he obtained 
the removal of the interdict that had been passed 
upon Mahomet, who was thus at liberty to re-enter 
Mecca. By the advice of his uncle he was more 
prudent, but Abu-Taleb died in the same year and 
Khadija soon afterwards ( 620 ). Left thus alone, 
Mahomet carried on his propaganda; but convinced 
that he had nothing to expect from the Meccans, he 
had an interview with the men of Yathreb, who had 
made overtures to him ( 621 ). Lengthy negotiations 
followed ; the Prophet hesitated : to come to an 
understanding with Yathreb would be in the eyes of 
Mecca the worst of treasons ; the desire of success 
carried him away, and he finally came to a decision in 
the course of a meeting that took place on Mount 
Aeaba ( 622). 1 

The men of Yathreb offered him their support and 
an asylum in their city, but they added a condition 
that disclosed their motives : “If he were to be 
recalled by his fellow-citizens, would Mahomet desert 
his allies? ” “ Never! ” replied Mahomet, “ I will 
live and die with you. Your blood is my blood ; your 
ruin shall be mine. I am from this moment your 
friend and the enemy of your foes.” This was the 
form of oath used when a man changed his tribe. 
Mahomet had just committed the worst of crimes ; by 
uniting himself to the men of Yathreb he had broken 

1 Delaparte, “ La Vie de Mahomet,” p. 225 , 


the tie of blood with the Koreich, a sacred bond that 
the Bedouins scrupulously respect. 

When the Meccans learnt of this agreement their 
fury knew no bounds. This time there was no one 
to protect Mahomet; Abu-Taleb was dead. They 
resolved to rid themselves of the traitor. Each of 
the tribes of Mecca and its allies named a judge : 
there were forty of them. 

Mahomet was not the man to face this danger ; he 
fled with his followers, Zaid, Ali, Abu-Bekr, his new 
father-in-law, Othman, his son-in-law, and Omar. 
This was the Hegira, of date September, 622. From 
that day, Yathreb became the city of the Prophet, 
Medinet-el-Nebi, which has been corrupted into 
Medina. It is with this flight to Medina that Islam 
commences. If the men of Medina had refused to 
receive him it would have been all up with the new 
religion; it would have remained the project of an 
idle dream. Left to the Meccans who would certainly 
have put him to death, the Prophet would not have 
been able to realize his work. Islam, therefore, owes 
its birth to the hostility between Mecca and Medina. 
Its first manifestations were acts of hostility against 
Mecca, and the adhesion of Yathreb to the new 
faith was inspired by policy rather than religion. 
Mahomet was received at Medina with sympathy 
because he was the enemy of Mecca ; but, when the 
first moment of enthusiasm had passed, this popula- 
tion of shopkeepers and husbandmen called upon him 
to fulfil his promises. In fact, they had done what 
they thought was a good stroke of business; they 
were bent on ruining the rival city so that they might 
come into its prosperity. Mahomet was to carry it 
out. First of all he built a Mosque ; in opposition 
to the Meccan temple of the Kaaba he built a temple 
at Medina. Then he had to commence hostilities, 



although he was by no means a believer in fighting. 
In plunging into warlike adventures he obeyed two 
motives : first, to satisfy the Medinans, and, secondly, 
to get himself out of a difficult situation. 

He was very much discussed. The Meccans not 
having been able to get rid of him by murder, tried 
to blacken his character; they had emissaries in 
Medina itself, charged to undermine his rising 
influence, to hold him up to ridicule, to show that he 
was just a man like any other, subject to the same 
weaknesses, the same passions, and above all, incapable 
of working miracles . 1 Mahomet was equally opposed 
by the Jews, who, regarding him as an impostor, 
refused to accept him as the prophet announced by 
their scriptures. His enemies pressed him with 
insidious questions; they called upon him to prove 
the truth of his mission : if God Almighty was with 
him, why did He not intervene in his favour ? 2 His 
disciples were equally troublesome ; at every moment 
they asked him for guidance, and he had to have 
incessantly on his lips verses from his holy book to 
indicate the rules of conduct according to the new 
religion. His slightest actions were examined; his 
public life, commented upon by everyone, must not 
show any inconsistency. He had also to look after 
the direction of his most zealous disciples, Ali, Zaid, 
Abu-Bekr, Omar and Othman. To escape from 
these worries, he decided upon action. War satisfied 
at the same time the lust for booty of those who saw 
in the affair merely an opportunity for pillage and 
the generohs passion of the true believers, burning to 
impose their faith on the infidel. Warlike successes 
were, moreover, the only miraculous proof the 
Prophet could offer of the divine protection. 

1 Abulfeda, “ La Vie de Mahomet.” 

2 Sedillot* “ Hist, des Arabes*” 


Such were the conditions under which, after many 
hesitations, he attacked the Meccans. It was a 
success : at Beder (624) his followers defeated six 
hundred Meccans. This victory confirmed his 
prestige, but it had the drawback of exciting the 
ardour and ambition of the Medinans. A second 
affair enabled the Koreich to take their revenge at 
Mount Ohod. 

Mahomet, to please his followers and to satisfy his 
own resentment, would willingly have continued the 
struggle against Mecca; he had his own vengeance 
to wreak upon the insolent Koreich who had mocked 
him and driven him out, but the reverse at Ohod 
revealed the danger of any such enterprise. The 
Meccans were fighting men; the Medinans on the 
contrary were only shopkeepers and agriculturalists. 
To carry on hostilities against these powerful enemies 
was to risk an irreparable check. It was important 
then in order not to abandon all action, to seek some 
less redoubtable antagonists, for instance, the Jewish 
tribes. This explains the successive attacks on the 
Cainoca, the Lalyan and the Mostelik. There were 
fine opportunities for looting ; the beaten Jews were 
driven out and their goods were divided among the 
Bedouins. It might be said that the attraction of 
loot was the most powerful propaganda for the new 
religion, and that it brought in more disciples than 
all the Prophet’s harangues. 

It was in the exaltation produced by these easy 
triumphs that Mahomet, playing the bold game, sent 
threatening messages to Chosroes II., King of Persia, 
to Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium, to the Negus 
of Abyssinia and to the Governor of Egypt. In 
doing this he did not run any great risk, seeing that 
these sovereigns were not particularly anxious to 
interfere with a country bare of all resources. 


The successes already gained had not only given 
the Medinans some warlike training, but had had 
the further effect of grouping around them all the 
fighting tribes avid for plunder. Mahomet could 
now contemplate attacking Mecca. His expedition, 
organized in secret, was perfectly successful. On the 
12th of January, 630, Mecca fell into the hands of 
the Musulmans. 1 On that day the men of Medina 
had promised themselves to make these haughty 
merchants pay for their unbearable contempt. 
“ This is the day of slaughter, the day when 
nothing shall be respected, ” had said the chief of 
the Khazradj ; but Mahomet removed him from his 
command, and ordered his generals to observe the 
greatest moderation. The Meccans witnessed in 
silence the destruction of the idols in their temple, 
the true Pantheon of Arabia, which then contained 
three hundred and sixty divinities worshipped by as 
many tribes ; and, with rage in their hearts, they 
recognized in Mahomet the messenger from God, 
whilst inwardly promising themselves to be avenged 
some day on these rustics, these Jews of Medina who 
had had the audacity to beat them. 3 

However, as clever men, they knew how to hide 
their wrath; they essayed to gain the Prophet’s 
confidence, to make him forget the past and to work 
themselves into all the important posts. It was thus 
that Abu-Sofian, the indomitable Koreichite, who had 
led the engagement at Ohod against Mahomet, now 
made his submission, and gave his son Maowiah to 
the Prophet as secretary. This example of adroit 
diplomacy was followed by the majority of the Meccan 

Knowing by experience that an open conflict is 

1 Gagnier, u Vie de Mahomet**’ 

3 Dozy, op. cit. p. 28* 


not always the surest way to win, they accommo- 
dated themselves to circumstances. But the rivalry 
between Medina and Mecca was not extinguished. 
It will be met with again, for it dominates the whole 
of Musulman history. For his part, Mahomet, 
wishing to increase the number of his adherents, 
did not take any unfair advantage of his victory. 
Contrary to the wishes of the Medinans, he did 
nothing to impair the religious prestige of his native 
city. The Kaaba, by a process not unknown else- 
where, became the temple of the one true God. 

The taking of Mecca established the success 
of the Prophet. Those scattered tribes who had 
remained hostile or indifferent made their sub- 
mission in the course of the following years. 
About a.d. 632, almost the whole of Arabia was 
Musulman, if not at heart, at any rate in outward 
seeming. To commemorate his triumph by a cere- 
mony that would strike the imagination, Mahomet 
made a solemn pilgrimage to Mecca, in 632. More 
than forty thousand Musulmans accompanied him. 
After the customary devotions— pagan devotions that 
he took over on account of Islam — he ascended Mount 
Arafat and harangued the crowd. Summing up the 
main outlines of the new doctrine, he cried : “ O, my 
God, have I fulfilled my mission? ” and every voice 
answered : “ Yes, thou hast fulfilled it.” On his 
return to Medina, he fell into a mortal sickness ; at 
the mosque he announced his approaching death, and 
died soon after in the arms of his favourite wife, 
A'isha. p 

It would convey a false idea of Mahomet if he 
were to be represented as a sort of divine personage, 
surrounded by an atmosphere of fervour and respect- 
ful adoration. To his contemporaries, Mahomet 
was the leader of a party rather than a religious 



personage. He imposed himself by force rather than 
by persuasion. It is possible that his preaching may 
have had some effect on the unsophisticated Bedouins, 
and that it may have seemed to them like an expres- 
sion of the divine will ; but it is quite evident that his 
immediate entourage did not take his Messianic role 
seriously. There were among his company certain 
Meccan, sceptics who knew Mahomet’s life, his gene- 
alogy, his humble and difficult beginnings, his failures, 
and who saw in him nothing but an upstart favoured 
by a concatenation of circumstances. Many of these 
followers, especially those most recently converted, 
seem to have been actuated by the desire to exploit 
his influence ; but very few of them looked upon him 
as a prophet. Their scepticism is shown by the 
attitude of some of them towards him. His 
secretary, Abd-Allah, who took down the divine 
revelations from his dictation, did not hesitate to 
alter their meaning so as to be able to make fun 
of them amongst his friends. He carried his 
facetiousness so far that Mahomet was obliged to 
dismiss him. 

It is notorious that one of his favourite wives, 
Aisha, deceived him; causing a scandal that the 
Prophet could only silence by a declaration which 
he claimed to be inspired by God, but which deceived 
nobody. We know that in the course of a discussion 
a certain Okba spat in his face and nearly strangled 
him. We know also that a Jew of Kha'ibar, whom 
Mahomet was endeavouring to conciliate, tried to 
poison him. These are sufficient indications to lead 
us to suppose that the Prophet did not inspire among 
his contemporaries those sentiments of admiration 
and respect of which we find the expression in 
writings subsequent to his decease. 

Mysticism only came into Islam later, when the 



Arabs, leaving their country, mixed with other 
nations. The Bedouin had not imagination enough 
to weave a legend round Mahomet. It was the 
Islamized foreigners, Syrians, Persians and Egyptians 
who created this legend and who, passing the history 
of the Prophet through the mill of their imagination, 
embellished it to the point of making of it a sort of 
mystical romance. 


Mahomet’s doctrine — Islam is Christianity adapted to Arab 
mentality — The practical essentials of Islam — The Koran 
is the work not of a sectarian but of a politician — Mahomet 
seeks to recruit his followers by every possible means — 
He deals tactfully with forces he cannot beat down, and 
with customs that he cannot abolish — Musulman morality 
— Fatalism — The essential principles of the reform brought 
about by the Prophet — Extension to all Musulmans of 
family solidarity — Prohibition of martyrdom — The Musul- 
man bows to force, but keeps his own ideas — The Koran 
is animated by the spirit of tolerance, Islam is not; the 
fault rests with the commentators of the second century, 
who by stereotyping the doctrine and forbidding all 
subsequent modification, have rendered all progress 

I SLAM is Christianity adapted to Arab mentality, 
or, more exactly, it is all that the unimaginative 
brain of a Bedouin, obstinately faithful to 
ancestral practices, has been able to assimilate 
of the Christian doctrines. Lacking the gift of 
imagination, the Bedouin copies, and in copying he 
distorts the original. Thus Musulman law is only 
the Roman Code revised and corrected by Arabs ; in 
the same way Musulman science is nothing but Greek 
science interpreted by the Arab brain; and again, 
Musulman architecture is merely a distorted imitation 
of the Byzantine style. 

It may be asked how it was that Christianity, 
which had its adherents in Arabia, did not develop 
there as it did elsewhere. First, because the Arabs, 
protected by their deserts, had never been the' 
objective of propaganda supported by force; also 



because its dogmas were too complicated for the 
Bedouin understanding ; and finally, because it 
refused unswervingly any compromise with traditions, 
customs or local superstitions : such as polygamy, 
pilgrimages to the temple of the Kaaba, the 
sacred month, circumcision, etc. Mahomet simpli- 
fied Christianity, or rather, for he did not go about 
it consciously with any preconceived plan, he distorted 
it without meaning to do so, by interpreting it so far 
as it was possible for an Arab brain to interpret it.. 
He has borrowed from it all that did not clash with 
the ideas and customs of the Bedouins : the unity of 
God, the mission of the Prophet, the immortality of 
the soul. 

The Arabs had long been prepared for the 
conception of a one and only God, an ancient Sabean 
belief. It appears, moreover, that the temple of the 
Kaaba counted among its numerous idols one more 
powerful or more celebrated than the others — Ilah, 1 
which might 'be compared to the Hebrew Eloah. 
They were also prepared for the notion of a prophet 
by the Messianic traditions of the Jews and Christians. 
As to the idea of the immortality of the soul, the 
worship of ancestors leads logically to it. Mahomet 
rejected as abominable errors what he himself could 
not understand, or what would have been incompre- 
hensible to the Arab brain, or would have clashed 
with the customs of the Bedouins, The result was a 
strange medley of beliefs. 

The general doctrine of Islam is simple : one 
supreme God, like that of the Jews and Ghristians ; 2 
no Trinity, no Son of God, s the place of the Holy 
Ghost, as intermediary between the Prophet and the 

*'Oaussin de Perceval, “ Essai sur l’Hist. des Arabes ' avant 
rlslamismfe. ’ ? 



Divinity, is taken by the angel Gabriel. The angels 
are divine messengers, but they are mortal and will 
come to life again, like other creatures, at the 
last day of judgment. The Jews, by denying the 
heavenly mission of Christ, have incurred the male- 
diction of the Almighty. The Christians have gone 
astray in inventing dogmas that have not been 
revealed ; but the faithful of both religions can attain 
salvation, since they admit the two cardinal principles 
— the unity of God and the last judgment. Jesus 
Christ is a prophet, but not the son of God ; he is the 
spirit of God, “ Rohou Illahi ” j 1 he was miraculously 
conceived by the Virgin Mary . 3 At the end of time 
he will come down to earth again to exterminate the 
infidels and to inaugurate the reign of happiness and 
justice . 3 

After death, punishments or rewards will be 
allotted to those who have followed or transgressed 
the divine precepts. The pains of Hell are eternal 
or not, according to the will of the Almighty. There 
is a Purgatory . 4 Paradise is reserved for those true 
believers who have done good and led virtuous lives. 
Religion alone does not insure salvation, good works 
are needful,® but this point is doubtful. 

God rules the world absolutely, and in the 
humblest details; he has regulated everything in 
advance, but is able to modify his decisions.® 

The use of fermented liquors is forbidden, and of 
certain foods considered injurious to health — dead 
animals, or those that have not been bled, blood, and 
the flesh of the pig . 7 

Mahomet did not concern himself specially with 

1 Koran, Oh. II, v. 254. 

2 Ibid., Oh. in, v. 3, and Oh. XIX, v. 20. 
8 Ibid., Oh. IV, y. 157. 

* Ibid., Oh. lAv, LXVI, LXXVI. 

5 Ibid., Oh. II, y. 23, and Ch. IV, v. 26. 

6 Ibid. Ch. n, IV, X. 

1 Ibid-, Oh. V-VI, XVI. 


morals ; in all circumstances his first care was policy. 
He was a party leader, struggling to impose his 
influence ; success in his eyes had no other consecra- 
tion than material supremacy. To arrive at his ends 
he relied mainly upon force. Those whom he wished 
to convince he treated with fire and sword. “ Believe 
or die! Believe or be a slave! ” was his supreme 
argument. When he was asked for a miracle to 
prove that he had divine support, he quoted his 
success in battle : “ I am the strongest, therefore 
Allah is with me.” He is a conqueror, not a 
moralist. Moses fought against the evil instincts of 
his people, he branded their vices, he was an austere 
moral judge. Jesus exhorted men to virtue; he 
preached the forgiveness of injuries, the love of one’s 
neighbour whoever he might be, the horror of 
violence : <£ He who triumphs by the sword shall 
perish by the sword.” 

Sakya Muni, the Buddha, was a sage who was 
satisfied with teaching the gentler virtues and giving 
an example of them in his own life. One and all of 
these great teachers expected success and the spread- 
ing of their doctrines to come only from persuasion ; 
they did not dream of having recourse to force. 

Mahomet did not trouble himself with such 
considerations; he did not combat the evil instincts 
of his people ; he exploited them and from policy he 
compromised with them. Thus he tolerated poly- 
gamy : more than that, he practised it himself. He 
knew nothing of the neighbour, such as Jesus had 
conceived him. For tribal clanship hq substituted 
Musulman solidarity; the neighbour was exclusively 
the Musulman, that is to say, his partisan. He 
recognized slavery, concubinage and the lex talionis. 
The “ Believer,” as he has defined him, is not a man 
distinguished by his virtues, but simply one who is 



enrolled under the banner of Islam ; and Islamism is 
not in itself a doctrine that aims at the perfection of 
the individual, but only at the bringing together of 
those who recognize Mahomet as the Prophet of God. 

Gabriel appeared to Mahomet one day under the 
form of a Bedouin and asked him : “ In what does 
Islam consist? ” Mahomet replied, “ In professing 
that there is but one God and that I am his Prophet, 
in observing exactly the hours of prayer, in giving 
alms, and in making, if one can, the pilgrimage to 
Mecca.” “ It is precisely that,” cried Gabriel, 
revealing himself. 

It is in its methods of propaganda that one sees 
the real spirit of Islam. For example, in Africa, 
in Uganda, and the Nyanza country, the French 
“ White Fathers ” have found themselves in contact 
with Musulman missionaries. The latter have often 
been successful because they did their best to deal 
gently with the evil passions of the negroes; they 
were willing to tolerate pagan practices, and were 
satisfied with the mere profession of the Koranic 
faith. They impressed upon the native chiefs as 
advantages of their faith that it accepted polygamy, 
concubinage and slavery . 1 Such expedients show up 
the real character of a belief. 

Entry to the Musulman paradise is not obtained 
as the reward of a virtuous life ; it is enough for the 
most hardened sinner to pronounce with his dying 
breath the profession of faith — the Chahada — to be 
admitted to the abode of the elect. As Palgrave has 
well shown, the formula, “ La Ilah, ilia Allah : there 
is no other God but God,” does not bear with the 
Arabs the meaning attributed to it in Europe. This 
formula is not only the negation of all plurality of 

1 See the biographies of missionaries published by the White 
Fathers of Maison-Carree : of Father Auguste Achte, by Father 
Q, Leblond, and of Father Simon Lourdel, by Abb6 Nicq. 




nature or of person in the Supreme Being, but it also 
indicates that God is the sole agent, the sole force, 
the sole action that exists, and that all creatures, 
matter or spirit, instinct or intelligence, are purely 
passive ; whence the conclusion : all things are as God 

This incommensurable Being, before whom all 
creatures are reduced to the same level of inertia and 
passivity, knows no other rule, no other restraint but 
his sole and absolute will . 1 

We find in the Commentaries of Beydaoui and in 
the Miskat el Mesabih, a tradition that leaves no 
doubt as to the conception that Mahomet and 
his contemporaries formed of the divinity. When 
Allah resolved to create man, he took into his hands 
the clay that was to serve in forming humanity, and 
in which every man pre-existed ; dividing it into two 
equal portions, he threw one into Hell, saying : 
“ Those for everlasting fire ” ; then, with equal 
indifference, he threw the other into the sky, adding : 
“ Those for Paradise.” 

Is there any need to point out the misleading 
influence of such a doctrine ? Acts regarded by man 
as good or bad become in reality all the same ; they 
have no other value than that attributed to them by 
the arbitrary will of the Almighty. This is the 
annihilation of all morality. And as the Mus ulmans 
find themselves in that half of the Creator’s clay 
destined for the delights of Paradise, it makes little 
or no difference whether they are good or bad : it is 
enough for them if they practise the outward 
observances that distinguish a good Musulman from 
the unbeliever. 

The outward worship comprised five essential 
practices : 

1 Palgrave, “ A Year in Central Arabia. 5 > 



First, prayer, five times a day, preceded each time 
by an ablution . 1 This was a practice borrowed from 
the Sabeans. Note that, with the Musulmans, 
prayer is rather an act of adoration and of devotion 
than a request addressed to the Almighty, Who 
knows our legitimate needs without our pointing 
them out to Him. 

Second, fasting during the sacred month of 
Rhamadan ; this again is a Sabean custom . 2 

Third, giving alms, which consists in giving to 
the poor the tenth part of one’s income . 3 This alms- 
giving, or Zekkat, is levied by the Government, 
acting on the principle that this institution having in 
view the general utility, it behoves the Government, 
as representing the community, to regulate the use 
to which it is put . 4 

Fourth, the pilgrimage to Mecca, a custom of the 
idolatrous tribes . 5 

Fifth, the Holy War, or religious propaganda 
(D jihad). The Djihad is a duty; the world being 
divided into two parts, Musulmans and non-Musul- 
mans, the Dar el Islam, or land of Islam, and the 
Dar el Harb, or land of war. “ Complete my work,” 
said the Prophet, “ extend the house of Islam to all 
parts. The house of war is God’s, God gives it to 
you. Fight the infidels until there shall he none left.” 

It follows from this precept that war is the normal 
state of Islam. The orthodox interpreters have, 
moreover, settled this point with particular care : 
The true believer must never cease to fight those who 
do not think as he does, except when he is not the 
stronger party. “ There can he no peace with the 

1 Koran, Oh. II, IV, XX. 

2 ibid., oh. n. 

* ibid., oh. n. 

4 Pellissier de Reynaud, “ Les Annales Algeriennes,” t. iii., p. 483. 

* Koran, Oh. II, XLII. 


infidel, but, when the Musulmans are not in sufficient 
force, there is no harm in their giving up the D jihad 
for a certain time.” 

This last recommendation explains the attitude of 
Moslems temporarily subject to a foreign power. 
Reduced to impotency, they conceal their impatience 
whilst they are waiting for the advent of “ Moul-es- 
Saa,” the Master of the hour, the man of genius who 
will be able, with divine protection, to bring together 
all the forces of Islam for the deliverance of the 
believers from the unbelievers’ yoke. 

This mixture of pagan customs, Sabean practices, 
and doctrines borrowed from Christianity shows the 
eclectic character of Islam, or rather of the Koran ; 
for it is desirable to establish a distinction between 
the Koran and Islam. The Koran is animated by a 
certain spirit of tolerance; Islam, on the contrary, 
has become an intolerant religion that admits no idea 
from the outer world, not even such as are outside 
the purely denominational sphere. 

The Koran is not the work of a sectarian blinded 
by narrow prejudice; it is the work of a politician 
anxious to draw to himself by all possible means 
the greatest number of adherents. According to 
the circumstances, Mahomet flatters, promises or 
threatens ; but the flattery and the promises are more 
frequent than the threats. 

The reason is obvious : he is striving to establish 
his doctrine; he therefore does his best to make it 
seductive by accepting now the prejudices of one 
party, and now the customs of another. He makes 
no frontal attacks upon received ideas or inveterate 
habits; he includes them bodily in his doctrine, 
softening them down when they do not please him. 
In the same way he does not fight openly powers too 
firmly established; he compromises with some of 



them and gives way to others, ready to stand up to 
them when circumstances permit. 

It was thus that he handled the Christians, the 
Jews, and the Sabeans because they were numerous 
in Arabia. “ The Christians,” he says, “ will be 
judged by their Gospels; those who judged them 
otherwise would be prevaricators. . . . Only enter 
into discussion with Jews and Christians in sincere 
and moderate terms ... of a truth Musulmans, Jews, 
Christians, and Sabeans, all those who believe in God 
and in the last judgment and who do good will be 
rewarded at His hands ; they will be exempt from fear 
and from punishment .” 1 Later on he attacks them, 
but with prudence. 

In the same way, he seeks to make himself the 
champion of women, of whom he speaks always 
with benevolence, and whose position he tried to 
ameliorate . 2 Before his reform, women and children 
could not inherit; and, what was even worse, the 
nearest relation of the defunct took possession of his 
women and their property, in the same way as he 
took over his slaves together with their savings. 
Mahomet gave women the right to inherit and often 
insisted in their favour. His last sermon at Mecca 
contained these memorable words : “ Treat your 
wives well ; they are your helpers and can do nothing 
by themselves.” He well knew that if a woman is a 
slave by day, by night she is a queen, and her 
influence is at all times worthy of consideration. 

He also tried to win over the slaves by making 
their enfranchisement easier and by recommending it 
as a meritorious action. He laid down that a slave 
who conceives to her master thereby acquires her free- 
dom, and that the son of a slave by a freeman is free. 

i Koran, Ch. II, IV, V, VII. 

1 Ibid., Ob. IV. 


If we would explain the attitude of the Prophet 
by an illustration taken from modern life, we could 
find no better comparison than to a parliamentary 
candidate during his electoi’al campaign. Like him, 
Mahomet does not trouble about the quality of his 
supporters, but their number; and to secure their 
votes he is ready to make any concessions; he shuts 
his eyes to divergences of opinion, and moderates his 

So, in order not to clash with Arab customs, he 
accepts polygamy, but he tempers it by limiting the 
number of wives to four, and by improving the 
position of the wife and of the children. In the same 
way he accepts circumcision, slavery, the sacred 
month of fasting, the pilgrimage to Mecca, the 
worship paid to the stone at the Kaaba, all of them 
rites of Arab paganism. 

The same desire to please is found in the picture 
he paints of the paradise promised to the elect ; x it is 
such an ideal as a Bedouin would form in his mind : 
shade, cool springs, charming women who do not 
grow old ; it is a catalogue of what the nomad finds in 
an oasis on returning from his wanderings in the 
desert. The singing-girls do not grow old, or at 
least one does not see them aging, because they 
abandon their profession as soon as age renders them 
less desirable. 

As an able politician, Mahomet handles all with 
tact and tries to please everybody. He only imposes 
one condition : acceptance of Islam and the recog- 
nition of his divine mission . 1 2 The majority of his 
personal conceptions, those that he seems to have 
evolved from his inner consciousness, are inspired by 
this desire of recruiting followers, and, above all, of 

1 Koran, Ch. LXIX, LXXV. 

51 Caussin de Perceval, op. cit. 



keeping them in the Musulman faith and prevent- 
ing them from forsaking it. There are two of 
these conceptions that dominate all Islam and which 
have exercised considerable influence over Mus ulman 
peoples. The first is the extension to all true 
believers of the spirit of solidarity which animates 
the members of the same tribe. Among the 
Bedouins the social horizon stops at the tribe; 
his neighbour is a man qf the same tribe, a relation, 
a cousin in some degree. Outside the tribe he has no 
neighbour, and therefore no social obligations. In 
proclaiming the brotherhood of all his adherents, 
Mahomet succeeded in making of Islam a closely 
united family, and of creating between the individual 
members sentiments of clanship of which we can 
observe the power at the present day. The tribe, it 
is true, did not always forget their ancient rivalries, 
especially during the first centuries of Islam; and 
Moslem history abounds in incidents provoked by 
family antagonism; but, with time, hatreds and 
misunderstandings were toned down, and if at certain 
periods of the splendour of the Empire of the 
Caliphs the tribes, having no outside enemy to 
combat, gave free rein to their independent spirit, it 
is no less true that, as soon as Islam was menaced, 
they remembered their religious brotherhood and 
formed a united front against the common enemy. 
And we see how at the present time every blow 
struck against the freedom of any Musulman people 
sends a tremor at once through the whole of Islam. 

This solidarity was a great attraction for the 
conquered nations, and it was the desire to profit by 
it that brought over most of the recruits to Islam . 1 
Every convert at once enjoyed all the privileges of 

1 De Castries, i{ L'lslam,” p. 85; Seignette, u IntrodL a la trad* 
de Khalil.” 


a Musulman : a foreigner and an enemy the day 
before, he became by simple conversion an equal 
and a brother. “ Know ,’ 5 said Mahomet, in his last 
sermon at Mecca, “ know that you are all equal 
among yourselves, and that you form a family of 
brothers.” This spirit of solidarity is kept up by the 
custom of the pilgrimage to Mecca. The peremptory 
duty imposed upon the Believer to visit the Holy City 
at least once in his life has contributed in the greatest 
measure to maintain the unity of belief throughout 
Islam, as well as the sentiment of religious brother- 
hood. Every year, around the temple of the Kaaba, 
representatives of every portion of the Musulman 
world, from India to Morocco, meet, mix together, 
live in intimate association, performing side by side 
the same rites, the same practices, and communicating 
in the same ideal. All divergence of opinion, all 
nascent heresy, are immediately swept away by the 
great breath of unity that passes over these people 
prostrate in adoration of the same idea. No other 
religion offers anything comparable to this pilgrimage 
to the city which is, according to the Arab expression, 
the “ Navel of the Islamic faith.” 

The second original conception of the Prophet is 
his prohibition of martyrdom. He frequently insists 
upon this point : the Musulman should not suffer for 
his beliefs. If he is the stronger, he ought to 
impose them, but if he finds himself too weak to 
resist with any prospect of success, he must submit 
for the time being to every foreign law that is forced 
upon him by violence. According to a fundamental 
precept of Islamic law, the dogma of constraint, his 
powerlessness takes from his conduct all blameable 
character . 1 For him to obey a non-Musulman 

1 Sawas Pasha, “ Etudes stir la theorie du Droit Mustilman 5J j 
Snouok Hurgronje, L© Droit Musulman, ,, 



power, or even one hostile to Islam, is not to abjure 
his religion, but simply to avoid useless suffering. 
He makes a semblance of yielding, but preserves 
intact in his heart his faith and his ideas. Whatever 
his attitude, the Musulman never ceases to be a 
Musulman; but as soon as the power that renders 
the constraint effective ceases, he must immediately 
throw off the law imposed upon him, under penalty 
of incurring eternal punishment. 

By the dogma of constraint, the Musulman is 
protected from all violence. Whatever the circum- 
stances and the vicissitudes, his conscience remains 
intact. Under the threat of force he can bind 
himself by the most solemn oaths, but they are 
mere empty words. This is an example of the theory 
of the “ scrap of paper ” that the Germans have 
made famous. The merit of martyrdom disappears, 
but abjuration becomes impossible . 1 The result is 
that the brain of the true believer is unassailable, 
impenetrable, irremediably closed to outside ideas; 
and it is this that explains why for centuries past the 
Musulmans have not made any concession to progress, 
and have abandoned none of their beliefs. It is this 
that explains also the return to ancestral practices of 
so many of the French Algerian subjects, officers or 
officials, who, after a career loyally accomplished, to 
all appearance, under foreign rule, go back, when 
circumstances permit, to their old habits. They 
have been able to live in our midst and to give the 
illusion that they have adopted our manners and our 
conceptions, without being in the very least affected 
by our ideas. In spite of outward concessions to 
the manners of the time, they preserve intact their 
robust faith that admits neither compromise nor 

1 De Castries, 11 L’ Islam ” p. 211, 


argument, and naively delights in its “ credo quia 
absurdun n.” 1 

Mahomet certainly never anticipated an intran- 
sigence carried to this extreme, as he himself 
never scrupled to borrow from other religions what- 
ever he thought would be useful. How then, has 
Islam, contrary to the spirit of the Koran, become 
intolerant ? The answer is that the Koran no longer 
influences individuals ; it is no longer the Koran that 
directs and regulates the conduct of the faithful. 
The Koran is not, as is generally believed, the civil 
and religious code of the Musulmans. It contains 
potentially the whole of Islamic legislation ; it 
constitutes a sort of quintessence of the laws, but 
it cannot replace them. It is the law of the 
Musulmans, just as the Pentateuch is the law of 
the Jews, and the Gospel that of the Christians. The 
same causes have produced the same effects in the 
three religions. In the early centuries of the Church, 
the Christian councils forbade the interpretation of 
the Gospels and substituted for them as a code the 
body of the canon law; in the same way the Jews 
substituted the Talmud for the Pentateuch; so the 
Caliphs, the successors of Mahomet, in accordance 
with the doctors of the Faith, forbade all exposition 
of the Koran outside of the four orthodox com- 
mentaries, which from that time down to the present 
have formed the Corpus Juris of Musulman nations. 
This body of law, sanctioned by the unanimous 
accordance of peoples and princes, is the law, of 
divine authority, according to their belief, like the 
Koran of which it is the expansion. 

This work was accomplished in the second century 
of the Hegira, at a period when Islam, triumphant 
and commanding irresistible material force, had no 

1 Louis Rinn, l< Marabouts et K3ioiian. ,> 


longer any need to use tact in dealing with authority ; 
but dictated its will and pleasure to all nations, 
and enforced them by violence. The leaders of the 
Musulman armies confronted the infidel with this 
formula: “Abjure or die; abjure or be a slave.” 
Thus, to gain a knowledge of the real doctrine of 
Islam, of that which has influenced the Moslem 
nations, recourse must be had not to the Koran but 
to the interpretations of the Koran made by learned 
doctors of the Faith. They have fixed the doctrine 
and have rendered it definitive, unchangeable and 
in consequence imperfectible. And as among the 
Musulmans it is the law of religious inspiration that 
regulates every act, it has been impossible for them 
to accept any progress, even in matters that do not 
affect the Faith, as for example matters of an 
economic or scientific nature. 

The spirit of the orthodox interpreters of the 
Koran is utterly different from that of Mahomet. 
The Prophet’s intention was to appropriate from 
other nations everything that seemed capable of 
strengthening his doctrine and attracting disciples. 
It was a liberal conception that might have made 
Islam the universal religion. Unfortunately, the 
doctors of the Faith have made any accommodation 
or any addition impossible. By their action a blind 
fanaticism has replaced the liberal spirit of the Koran, 
and has killed any germ of progress in Islam. The 
immutability of its institutions has ended in moulding 
individuals and the whole nation. It is this that 
explains how the Moslem nations have remained and 
still remain insensible and even hostile to Western 

The Believer cannot accept, without abjuring, any 
truth of whatever nature if it is not Islamized, that is 
to say, unless it is proved to him that it is supported 



by one of the sacred foundations laid by God and his 
Prophet. But it is not permissible for anyone in 
Islam to establish this proof ; it is, therefore, 
impossible to introduce into the Law, and conse- 
quently into society, the modifications dictated by 
the evolution of ideas and the progress of science. 

To understand this immobilization ” of the 
Moslem nations one would have to imagine what the 
Christian world would have become if, no distinction 
having been established between the spiritual and the 
temporal, it had remained under the discipline of 
the canon law of the earlier centuries. The autonomy 
accorded to each of these two powers has allowed the 
temporal to develop in accordance with the progress 
of the times, without having to rebel against the 
spiritual. Among Moslems this distinction does not 
exist ; the religious law is at the same time the civil 
law, God is the legislator; every act of a Believer, 
whatever it may be, depends upon His will, and is 
submitted to His judgment. This conception has 
made of Islam a society under theocratic government, 
like the vanished societies of Egypt and the Orient ; 
and it is abundantly clear that any such society, 
obstinately hostile to all evolution, i.e., to all progress, 
can only stagnate outside the civilizing currents that 
are bearing humanity towards the future. To rise out 
of its immobility it would have to deny its faith ; but 
no Musulman in any part of the world has ever 
thought of such a thing without horror. 

Islam stands in this modern world like r a mournful 
statue of the past. 


Islam under the successors of Mahomet — Even in Arabia the 
new faith was only able to impose itself by force — The 
first Musulman conquerors were actuated by the desire 
for plunder, not by any anxiety to proselytize — The 
expansion of Islam in Persia, Syria and Egypt was 
favoured by the hostility of the natives of those countries 
to the Persian and Byzantine Governments — The struggle 
for influence between Mecca and Medina, which had con- 
tributed to Mahomet’s success, was continued under his 
successors, sometimes favourable to Medina, under the 
Caliphates of Abu-Bekr Omar and Ali; sometimes to 
Mecca, under the Caliphate of Othman — The Mecca party 
finally triumph with the coming of Maowiah— -Conflicts 
between the tribes, between individuals, chronic anarchy : 
characteristics of Musulman society and the causes of its 
future ruin. 

T HE work of Mahomet, too rapidly accom- 
plished, rested upon slender foundations. 
One cannot profoundly modify the 
mentality of a people in twenty years, 
to the extent of extirpating from their brains all 
germs of former beliefs. To attain such a result, it 
would be necessary to act upon several successive 
generations, and the Prophet died before the gener- 
ation he had conquered for Islam had been replaced 
by its successor. <£ Conquered ” is the right word; 
since it was mainly by force that he had imposed his 
doctrine, and by ministering to the Bedouin’s love 
of plunder. Every recalcitrant tribe was immedi- 
ately attacked and its goods confiscated ; yielding to 
violence and accepting the new faith, it was in turn 



won over by the lure of booty, and joined up with 
the other Musulmans to attack and pillage the next 

It was in this manner that Islam spread rapidly 
over the whole of Arabia; but this method of 
expansion had its special danger. When there were 
no more infidels to be robbed, how were the bellicose 
instincts of the new believers to be satisfied? With- 
out the attraction of booty, which in their eyes 
constituted the chief merit of Islam and their reason 
for remaining faithful to a cause which procured them 
numerous material satisfactions, would they not 
abandon it, would they not forsake the Musulman 
fraternity to return to their old inter-tribal quarrels ? 

Mahomet had thought of all this, and of starting 
the Bedouins upon the conquest of Syria ; but illness 
had compelled him to delay the execution of this 
project until death prevented him from undertaking it. 

This combination of circumstances was very nearly 
fatal to the new religion. Cowed by force, possibly 
also influenced by the moral ascendancy of the 
Prophet, and by the prestige that an uninterrupted 
series of successes had given him, the tribes had 
remained faithful because they feared him; but, as 
soon as his illness became known, the more turbulent 
among them rose. Before his death, Mahomet 
learned that in the Yemen a certain Aihala-the-black, 
who combined the possession of immense wealth 
with an alluring eloquence, was claiming to be the 
bearer of a divine message, had driven out the 
Musulman Sheikhs, and had taken several towns . 1 

The Prophet’s death was the signal for a general 
rising . 2 The old rivalry between Mecca and Medina 
broke out afresh; the importance that had accrued 

1 A1 Soheili. 

3 8yl. de Sacy, “ Vie de Mahomet.” 



to Medina did not suit the pride and ambition of 
the Meccans. The latter, and the tribes who were 
allied with them, could only bear with simmering 
impatience the yoke of the shopkeepers of Medina, 
whom they despised, and who, moreover, made 
themselves unbearable by their religious bigotry. 

Incited by ambition, false messengers from God 
were arising on all sides and drawing in their train 
the tribes hungering for pillage. Musulman Sheikhs, 
refugees, “ Defenders ” and “ Ansars,” driven out 
by the insurgents, were arriving at Medina every day. 

The number of false prophets and the success of 
some of them show what a favourable soil Arab 
anarchy offered to impostors ; they also explain how 
Mahomet had been able to conceive and carry into 
effect his own project. 

Starting from the most distant regions, the revolt 
drew nearer and nearer, until the city of the Prophet 
was in danger . 1 It was a critical moment. In 
omitting to nominate his successor, Mahomet had 
left the field clear for every ambition. The Meccans 
were in a turmoil, intending to seize the power that 
the Medinans were just as determined to retain. 

The man to whom all indications naturally pointed 
was his cousin and son-in-law Ali, one of his first 
converts. But Ali had a deadly enemy in his own 
family, A'isha, the favourite wife of Mahomet, who 
had never forgiven Ali for having once cast doubt 
upon her conjugal fidelity . 2 Her resentment was 
aggravated by feminine rivalry between herself and 
Fatima, All’s wife, and the daughter of the 
Messenger of God. In short, Aisha was dead 
against Ali and intrigued against him with such 


1 Dozy, op. cit, 

2 Koran, Gh. 


b. p. 61 . 



note by Kasimirsky in his translation, 



energy as to cause his rejection. Then, winning 
over to her party the companions of Mahomet, those 
who had followed him in his flight from Mecca to 
Medina, and had shared his good and evil fortunes, 
she got them to accept her father, Abu-Bekr. The 
companions resigned themselves to this choice on the 
instance of Omar, because it was necessary to come to 
an immediate decision in order to put a stop to 
Meccan ambitions. 

So Abu-Bekr was proclaimed Caliph. He was 
a man of simple manners, who, in spite of his 
unexpected elevation, lived in poverty. When he 
died, he left behind him a worn-out garment, one 
slave and one camel. A true patriarch, after the 
Medinans’ own heart ; he had one great quality — 
energy ; and he possessed what had given victory to 
Mahomet and was lacking to his enemies — an 
unshakable conviction, a bigoted faith . 1 He was 
the right man in the right place. 

This old man, of good-natured aspect, took his 
stand in the midst of general insurrection, and with 
the implacable firmness of a believer began Mahomet’s 
work over again. He knew what men to select as 
his assistants, notably, one Khalid, a fighting Sheikh 
of wild character, of cold-blooded, calculating cruelty, 
whose mere name struck terror. His orders from 
the Caliph were brief and to the point : t£ Destroy 
the apostates without pity by fire and sword, by every 
sort of torture.” Khalid obeyed to the letter : there 
were tremendous hecatombs in the Nejed and in the 
Yemen. The insurgents, decimated, hunted and 
surrounded, were slaughtered by thousands, their 
goods pillaged or destroyed . 2 Other Sheikhs, worthy 
rivals of Khalid, accomplished the same task in the 

1 Tabari, Ann ales nmsulmanes, ,, 

2 A1 Beidawi and Abulfeda, “ Vie de Mahomet 



central and southern regions, and in a few months 
order was re-established. 

It would be a great mistake to suppose that 
Islam made its way into men’s minds by the 
attractiveness of its doctrine. Even in Arabia, 
Mahomet’s own country, it could only gain recruits 
by violence, and it was the same elsewhere. In all 
countries, nations in subjection to an alien Power, 
as in Egypt, North Africa and Spain, anxious to 
change masters in the hope of bettering their 
condition, received Islam at first as an instrument of 
liberation but as soon as their first experiences had 
revealed to them the intolerable tyranny of a bigoted 
religion, they revolted. But it was then too late. 
Islam, with irresistible material force at its disposal, 
broke down all opposition and drowned all inclination 
to rebel in a sea of blood. And then, generations 
passed away ; the new generations, brought up in the 
Musulman faith, enclosed in its narrow dogmas, 
became fixed in resignation and no longer dreamed 
of changing either their beliefs or their masters. 

The massacres perpetrated in Arabia under the 
orders of Abu-Bekr compelled the tribes to re-enter 
the narrow way, not because they were convinced of 
the truth of Islam, but because they were satisfied 
that for them the new religion had, in default of any 
divine right, a tremendous argument of physical 
force. The insurgents resigned themselves therefore 
to being Musulmans, but their orthodoxy was more 
than doubtful. If apostasy was not to be thought of 
because of the implacable severity of its punishment, 
these converts by force had neither piety nor sincere 
faith. Men who considered vengeance as the most 
sacred of all duties, could not be expected to show 
any great respect for a religion that had cost them 

? Cfe. Mills. ‘‘ Hist, du Ma^ometisme.” 



the lives of so many of their kindred . 1 They were 
ignorant of its most elementary principles. Arab 
writers have given us some typical examples of this 
ignorance that throw a curious light upon the morals 
of the early Moslems. An old Bedouin had arranged 
with a young man to let him have his wife every other 
night, and, in return, the young man was to watch 
the old man’s flock. This curious arrangement came 
to the ears of the Caliph, who ordered the two men 
to appear before him, and asked them if they were 
aware that their religion forbade a man to share his 
wife with anyone else. They swore they had no idea 
of it. 

Another man had married two sisters : “ Don’t 
you know,” asked the Caliph, “ that religion forbids 
what you have done? ” 

“ No,” replied the offender, “ I hadn’t the least 
idea of it, and I must say I can’t see anything wrong 
in the act you are finding fault with.” 

“ The text of the law is quite clear, nevertheless. 
You will at once repudiate one of the two sisters, or 
I shall cut your head off.” 

“ Are you speaking seriously? ” 

“ Very seriously.” 

“ Oh, well, it’s a detestable religion that won’t let 
you do such things .” 2 

The unfortunate man never even suspected, so 
great was his ignorance, that in answering in such a 
fashion he was running the risk of being beheaded as 
a blasphemer or an apostate. 

Abu-Bekr had no illusions as to the quality of the 
new converts, nor as to their real sentiments. And, 
realizing that it was expedient to give them some 
opportunity of pillage, he enrolled them forthwith 

1 Dozy, pp. 36, 37. 

2 Abu-Ism&il Al Ba§ri, “ Fotoixh ech-diana,.” 



in the Musulman armies he was sending into Syria 
and Irak. He thus rid himself of a lot of trouble- 
some people, whilst making them serve the cause 
of Islam . 1 

We generally form a false conception of the 
Musulman armies ; they were more of the nature of 
hordes than of regularly ordered troops; there was 
no organization and no discipline or cohesion. The 
tribes formed so many separate corps, each under its 
own standard carried by the Sheikh or by a warrior 
appointed by him. The whole presented a spectacle 
of inconceivable disorder — horse and foot all mixed 
up together, some half clothed, others loaded up with 
stolen garments; each man armed according to his 
own fancy with a bow or a pike, a mace, a sword, or 
a spear. The women followed up the fighting men 
to take part in the sack and guard the booty . 2 These 
hordes have often been represented as dominated by 
a superhuman faith and courting death with a sort of 
fanatical joy, in the hope of gaining paradise. This 
is a mistake : with the exception of some few 
companions of Mahomet who, as it were, formed the 
Staff, and who were animated by sincere convictions, 
the mob of fighting men had but one idea — loot. It 
was this that made them successful. These starving 
Bedouins rushed like beasts of prey on the rich 
provinces offered to their rapacity. Without any 
sort of organized commissariat, they could only live 
on the conquered people; to live they must first 
conquer. Victory to them meant not only loot, it 
gave them all the material enjoyments they could 
wish for — food, women and slaves. 

The desert men, accustomed to the hardest 

1 Noel Desvergers, “ Hist, de l’Arabie.” 

2 Oekley, “Hist, des Sarrazins,” p. 253; Sedillot, u Hist, des 


privations and to the modest profits to be had from 
robbing caravans, became enthusiastic followers of 
Islam when once they knew the intoxicating delights 
of devastated provinces, cities put to sack, women 
ravished; but religious faith had no part in this 

Such were the hordes that rushed to the conquest 
of the world. 

Under the command of the terrible Khalid, they 
first attacked Irak, which was then under the rule of 
the Persian Sassanides . 1 Irak-el-Arabi comprises the 
valley of the lower Tigris and Euphrates, a flat, 
fertile alluvial plain, which the moisture of the 
soil and the mildness of the climate made a regular 
oasis. The population, peaceable and hard-working, 
lived entirely by agriculture : a people of husbandmen 
and gardeners, who had carried the science of 
irrigation very far . 2 

The richness of this territory had from all time 
excited the envy of its neighbours ; of the hordes of 
Turkestan, on the north and east, of Byzantine 
Emperors on the west. The Bedouins hurled 
themselves upon it like a herd of famished beasts. 
The orchards of fruit trees, the verdant gardens 
intersected by irrigation channels, amid thriving 
villages, all seemed to them like a paradise . 3 

The inhabitants made a fierce resistance; they 
held to their property and their religion — Mazdeism 
or Zoroastrianism, a lofty belief that conceived the 
world as in prey to two powers in eternal conflict — 
good and evil. But Khalid employed such “ fright- 
fulness ” against those who held out that the 
population, terrorized by the spectacle of burnings, 

1 Tli. Noeldeke, u Hist, des Ferses et des Arabes au temps des 

3 El Macdn. 

3 Kremer, u Hist, du Khalifat,” 



rape and murder, resigned themselves to conform to 
Islam, and thereby saved their property . 1 

As soon as Irak was quiet, Khalid turned upon 
Syria, where Mothana was already operating. The 
Byzantines who ruled the country, intoxicated by 
recent successes gained over the Persians, devoted 
themselves to the pleasures of life; and, to fill up 
their time as gentlemen of leisure, gave themselves 
up to philosophical and religious discussions : vain 
subtleties of a barren casuistry with which their 
name is for ever connected. Verbal strife was then 
very keen between the different Christian sects — the 
monophysites, the catholics and monothelites, to 
name only the principal ones . 2 

The Emperor Heraclius, who had a passion for 
these doctrinal futilities, troubled himself but little 
about the Musulmans ; when he heard of their 
advance, he contented himself with sending a rein- 
forcement of five thousand men to Antioch . 3 He 
estimated that this would be enough against a ragged 
horde without discipline; but he forgot that the 
contest between these ragamuffins and his Greek 
soldiers was unequal. The former, famished and 
possessing nothing, were fighting to live, to seize by 
violence all that they lacked; whereas his Greeks, 
well endowed with worldly goods, and fond of life, 
lost everything in losing their lives; so they fought 

The Bedouins, avid for plunder, excited by the 
promises ofutheir leaders, who extolled the delights 
and the wealth of Syria, overpowered the Greeks. 
Possibly they were helped by dissensions among the 
Christians, and it is probable that, in the blindness 

1 Dozy, u Essai sur PHist. de l’lslamisme.*’ 

2 Lebeau, tl Hist, du Bas-Empire / 5 

3 Ockley, “ Conquete de la Syrie, de la Berse et de PEgypie par 
les Sarrazins.” 


of religious passions let loose, certain sectaries, to get 
rid of their adversaries, favoured the Musulman 
inrush. It was proved that Romanus, Governor of 
Bosra, betrayed his own people and sold himself to 
the invaders. 

Syria was abominably pillaged. For the first 
time the Musulmans were fighting a Christian 
community, and one would have expected, on the 
faith of the Koran, that they would have shown some 
moderation towards those whom the Prophet had 
called “ people of the Book,” and whom he had on 
several occasions enjoined them to treat with 

Far from it : the Christians were treated as 
idolaters and apostates, ££ with fire and sword and all 
manner of tortures,” according to the letter of 
Abu-Bekr’s barbarous order. And this proves that 
Islam, a doctrine conceived in a barbarian brain for a 
nation of barbarians, only enjoins moderation when 
under restraint; but that, whenever possible, it 
resorts to violence in every form. 

In Syria, as in Irak, massacres alternated with 
burnings. The citizens of Damascus who, after a 
furious resistance, had been authorized by a solemn 
treaty to leave the country and to carry with them 
part of their belongings, were treacherously attacked 
as soon as they had got into open country, and were 
robbed and massacred . 1 It was a singular method of 
propaganda, but the Bedouins cared little about 
gaining recruits for Islam, and their leaders had not 
desired them to proselytize ; booty was the only thing 
that mattered. 

Abu-Bekr died with the satisfaction of having 
pacified Arabia in two years, and wop two important 
provinces for Islam. To avoid fresh troubles, he had 

1 Scdillot, op. cat. p. 135. 



before his death nominated as his ■ successor Omar, 
who had been one of his staunchest supporters at the 
time of his elevation to the Caliphate. The election 
of Omar (634-644), a refugee from Mecca at the time 
of the Prophet’s flight, was another triumph for the 
Medina party, 1 and greatly exasperated the Meccans. 
Omar achieved the conquest of Syria and added to it 
that of Palestine. The Bedouins found themselves 
all at once in the midst of a refined people, who had 
inherited the rich treasures of Hellenic culture ; and 
these undisciplined hordes, without laws and without 
social organization, must have been greatly astonished 
by the spectacle of a regularly constituted society, in 
which individuals, each forming part of the machinery 
of a wisely ordered administration, could not perform 
the simplest acts without having to conform to rules 
laid down. 

Omar was inspired by this organization to establish 
the first foundations of Musulman government, of 
that Caliphate government that was destined to rule 
so many nations later on. An able administrator, he 
conceived the idea of turning the Musulman victories 
into money ; he regulated the pillage, and made the 
vanquished pay indemnities. Thus Jerusalem, by the 
payment of an annual tribute, purchased the right to 
preserve its churches and to practise its own religion. 
The citizens of Aleppo escaped massacre by paying 
three hundred thousand pieces of gold ; 2 and other 
cities bought themselves off in the same way. In 
this wise measure of Omar is to be found the origin 
of the Caliphate treasure, which was to attain such 
fabulous proportions under the Ommeyads and 
Abbassides. But if Omar respected for the moment 
— and from financial considerations — a faith it would 

x Es-Soyouty, “ Hist, des Khalites.” 

3 Oh. Mills, a Hist, du Mahometistne. ,, 


have been dangerous to persecute, since it prescribes 
martyrdom, he took guarantees for the future. 
Christian parents were free to practise their religion, 
but the education of their children was taken out of 
their hands. Arabic became the official language; 
all posts, all favours and privileges were granted 
exclusively to Musulmans; so that people were led 
imperceptibly to renounce their beliefs . 1 This regime 
of favour limited to Musulmans upset Syrian society. 
The humble and the outcast made haste to adopt the 
new religion ; because, becoming as it were overnight 
the equals of the conqueror, they passed from the 
condition of servants to that of masters. Owing to 
this turn of the wheel of fortune, it was the Syrian 
proletariat, to borrow a modern expression, who 
administered the country, under Arab overlordship ; 
whilst the well-to-do classes, restrained by consider- 
ations of self-respect and refusing to make terms with 
the conqueror, were suddenly impoverished by the 
loss of their privileges. 

Syria, pacified and subjected to tribute, escaped 
further pillage. This was not to the liking of the 
Bedouins, whose sole preoccupation was loot ; Omar 
therefore sent them to Egypt under Amru ( 639 ). 

Egypt, under the rule of the Greeks, was at that 
time profoundly divided, first by race antagonism 
between the Greek conquerors and the natives of 
the country, and then by religious quarrels. The 
Egyptians had adopted Christianity; but, in this 
Alexandrine centre, where so many new ideas had 
fermented on the decline of paganism, the Christian 
doctrines had not been able to preserve their primitive 
purity. A whole literature had been developed to 
satisfy the tendencies of Egyptian mentality : apocry- 
phal Acts of the Apostles ; Revelations of Elias, and 

1 A1 Wakedi* 



of Sophonius, etc. ; finally, the Christians, hesitating 
amid a hundred heresies, had adopted the monophysite 
doctrine of Eutyches, condemned in 415 by the 
Council of Chalcedony. They formed under the 
Patriarch of Alexandria, a church independent of 
the papacy . 1 Persecuted for their ideas by the 
orthodox Emperors of Constantinople, and burdened 
by vexatious taxation, they received the Musulmans 
as liberators. Thus betrayed, and drowned in a 
hostile population, the Greeks were beaten at the 
first encounter. Some cities held out, but they were 
compelled to surrender through the treachery of 
the Christians, the Copts, as the Arabs called them. 
By 641 the whole country was in the hands of the 

The Copts were rewarded for their treachery; 
they first obtained numerous privileges and were 
authorized to practice their religion in consideration 
of the payment of an annual tribute of two ducats a 
head. In the first year, 640, this yielded twelve 
million ducats ; a considerable sum for that period. 3 
Encouraged by this result, Omar extended the tax 
to all the inhabitants, and then proceeded to tax the 
landed proprietors according to the value of their 

As the Copts, by their knowledge of the language 
and customs of the country, were the only people 
capable of replacing the Greek officials in the conduct 
of a complicated administration, it was they who filled 
the various *posts and who especially collected the 
taxes. They grew rich at this trade ; all the money 
of the country passed through their hands, and some 
of it stayed there. Their prosperity was their 
undoing. A century later, as the result of a change 

1 Theophanus, Ghron. 

2 A1 WakedL 


of Musulman policy towards foreigners, we see the 
Copts, whose property had aroused envy, abominably 
robbed and treated as pariahs. It went to the length 
of their being compelled to wear blue turbans to 
distinguish them from Musulmans, and of their 
priests being branded with a red-hot iron. Later 
still, when religious fanaticism had increased, they 
were reduced to such a pitiful condition that the 
greater part of them had to abandon their faith. 

At the same time as he was carrying on the 
conquest of Syria and Egypt, Omar continued that of 
Persia, rendered more feasible by the previous occupa- 
tion of Irak under Caliph Abu-Bekr. At the outset, 
the Persians resisted, with varying fortune; they 
were finally beaten at Cadesia (634), where Roustem, 
their national hero, perished, and at Djalulah and 
Nehavend, where their king Iez-Dedjerd was forced 
to take flight. 1 The Musulmans took possession one 
after the other of Assyria, Media, Suziana, Perside 
and the Persian provinces placed under the authority 
of China. The loot was immense ; after the battle of 
Cadesia alone each horseman received the value of 
six thousand dirhems, and each foot soldier two 
thousand dirhems. 2 

Islam now ruled over vast territories, but its 
influence was far from having penetrated the manners 
of the people. Even in Arabia, with the exception 
of Medina where a sort of mystic puritanism reigned, 
its dogmas were little observed, and, for the matter 
of that, were unknown to the majority of the 
Bedouins. The Meccans, impatient of the yoke of 
Medina, and exasperated by the triumph of their 
rivals, set the example of insubordination. They 
violated the precepts of the Prophet for the sheer 

1 Malcolm, “ Hist, de la Perse.” 

2 Sedillpt, “ Hist, des Arabes,” 


pleasure of disobedience, from the spirit of opposition. 
Accustomed to the enjoyments wealth provides, their 
minds enlarged by foreign travel, it was repugnant 
to them to have to bow to the mummeries of the 
ragged bigots of Medina; but, too cunning to engage 
in any open conflict against the doctrines of Mahomet, 
they were satisfied with merely not observing them. 
Thus, they drank wine, they had wives in excess of 
the number permitted, they neglected the fasts and 
gave themselves up to gambling ; 1 and yet, in spite 
of their contempt for the men of Medina, they 
humoured them, waiting for an opportunity of 
taking their revenge. They intrigued to obtain all 
the important appointments. It was in this way that 
Maowiah, son of Abu-Sofian, who had been secretary 
to the Prophet, managed to get himself appointed 
Governor of Syria. Omar was glad enough to be 
rid of an influential and troublesome member of the 
Koreich party, of a £t black sheep,” notorious for his 
disorderly life and perfect contempt of all religious 

In Syria Maowiah assumed the style of a grand 
seigneur. Fascinated by the manners of the 
inhabitants, who had acquired by contact with 
Byzantine civilization a love of pleasure and a science 
of luxury and well-being undreamed of in Arabia, 
he forgot all about Islam, the Prophet and the Caliph. 
In the wealthy society of Damascus, where all the 
subtleties of philosophy, all the refinements of Greco- 
Latin decadence were known, nobody cared anything 
about religion or morals ; in view of the uncertainty 
of the future, they made haste to enjoy the present, 
without stopping at vain scruples. Maowiah lived in 
a beautiful dream; he wrote his enthusiasm to his 
friends at Mecca and drew for them so attractive a 
* Qot’ Beddin Mohammed El Mekki, u Hist, de la Mekke/* 


picture of the country and of the life he was leading, 
he promised them such lucrative posts that the greater 
part of them hurried out to join him, glad to get 
away from the yoke of Medina, from their bigoted 
fanaticism and stinginess. 

The noblesse of Mecca emigrated to Syria. 1 
Maowiah thus surrounded himself with an elegant 
and refined court, which very soon acquired Byzantine 
manners and formed a striking contrast to the puritan 
society of the Old Musulmans of Medina. 

Those of the Koreich who stayed behind in 
Mecca continued their sullen opposition, causing 
Omar some uneasiness. He foresaw the difficulties 
that ambition would raise in the near future, when he 
would have to name his successor. So, when he was 
stabbed by a Ghebr in the mosque at Medina and 
knew the serious nature of his wound, his one thought 
was to avoid the intrigues and competitions his death 
was sure to provoke. He sent for six of the most 
considerable personages in Islam, those whom he 
considered the safest, the most devout, the most 
disinterested, and he charged them to nominate th,e 
new Caliph. Among the six there figured Ali, 
Othman, Zobeir and Talha (644). 

Omar’s foresight was justified, but his precautions 
were in vain. No sooner was he dead than there was 
a swarming of intrigues — between the Meccans and 
the Medinans ; between the members of the selection 
committee who themselves intrigued for power ; 
between Aisha, the widow of Mahomet and his 
daughters, one of whom was Ali’s wife and the other 
the wife of Othman. Actuated by diverse motives, 
they all agreed upon the choice of Othman. They 
chose him because of his great age — he was seventy 
—which gave them hopes of a speedy succession ; 

1 Qot’B. Eddin, op, cit« 



A'isha accepted him to avoid the nomination of Ali ; 
the Koreich because they thought they had sufficient 
influence over him to wield power in his name ; the 
Medinans because he was pious, modest and retiring ; 
the true Musulmans because he had been one of the 
earliest companions of the Prophet and was his son- 
in-law; the mob because he was rich and open- 
handed . 1 Othman-Ibn-Affan had been, in his prime, 
a man of fine energy and noble character ; in old days 
he had filled at Mecca the role of a grand seigneur ; 
but after his conversion to Islam, and his stay at 
Medina, perhaps also as the result of his age, his 
temperament had become somewhat changed. Pray- 
ing and fasting with exemplary zeal, extremely good- 
natured and modest, he might have been taken for a 
saint of Medina; his piety had made him popular 
among the fanatical Musulmans, but he was not the 
man for the position of Caliph. He was so shy that 
when he went up into the pulpit for the first time 
in the mosque at Medina he had not the courage to 
begin his sermon. “ To begin is very difficult,” he 
murmured with a sigh and left the pulpit . 2 

The Meccans skilfully exploited the feebleness of 
the new Caliph ; they surrounded him with attentions 
and flattery, played upon his sentiments of family 
solidarity, and understood so well how to obtain his 
confidence that they ended by governing in his name. 
These men who had only accepted Islam with the 
sword at their throat, and who since their conversion 
had always, lived in sullen revolt, captured all the 
offices. This time the Meccans had their revenge, 
and they made the most of it. All authority passed 
into their hands, and, by a singular anomaly, it was 
precisely the former enemies of the Prophet who 

1 Qot’B Eddin, op. eit. 

3 Dozy, op. cit. p. 45, 


were now charged to watch over the interests of 

Merwan, a cousin of the Caliph, became his 
secretary and vizier ; he was the son of Hakam whom 
the Prophet had cursed and banished for treachery 
after the taking of Mecca. 

Maowiah was maintained as Governor of Syria; 
he was the son of Abu-Sofian, leader of the troop 
that had beaten Mahomet at Ohod, and had besieged 
him at Medina. His mother, Hind, was a virago 
who had made herself a necklace and bracelets out of 
the ears and noses of the Musulmans killed at Ohod ; 
she had opened the belly of Hamza, the uncle of the 
Messenger from God, and had dragged out his liver 
and torn it to pieces wdth her teeth . 1 

Abd- Allah, foster-brother of the Caliph, was 
appointed Governor of Egypt. Formerly, when 
secretary to the Prophet, he had been cursed by him 
for having intentionally altered the meaning of certain 
revelations in order to turn them into ridicule among 
his friends. 

Walid, his half-brother, was Governor of Kufa; 
he was the son of Okba who had spit into Mahomet’s 
face ; on another occasion he had almost strangled 
him; later, when he was made prisoner by the 
Prophet, and condemned to death, he had cried : 
“ Who will take care of my children after me? ” and 
Mahomet had replied: “The fire of hell! ” The 
victim’s son, the child of hell as he had been called, 
seemed anxious to justify this prediction. , One night, 
after a supper made merry by wine and the presence 
of some pretty singing-girls, as the dawn was 
approaching he heard the muezzin intone the call to 
prayer from the top of a minaret. His brain still 
fuddled with the fumes of wine, and without any 

1 Dozy, p. 47, 



other garment but his tunic, he betook himself to 
the mosque and there stuttered through the customary 
formulae ; then, with the swagger of a drunkard, to 
prove to himself that he had not drunk too much, 
he asked the congregation whether he should add 
another prayer. “By Allah! ” thereupon cried a 
pious Musulman, “ I expected nothing else from 
such a man as thou ; but I never thought they would 
send us such a Governor from Medina. ” 

Such were the personages, who, favoured by the 
feebleness of an old man, exercised authority. The 
Caliphate of Othman was the Caliphate of the 
comrades ; it was the exploitation of Islam by the 
Koreich party, of whom the most active representative 
at that time was Maowiah, Governor of Syria. The 
Meccans took advantage of circumstances to avenge 
themselves upon the Old Musulmans of Medina. 
Several companions of the Prophet were maltreated ; 
the generals who, under Abu-Bekr and Omar, had 
conquered Irak, Syria and Egypt, were dismissed, 
and their places filled by members of Othman’s 
family or by favourites. The commandments of 
religion were disdained; morals were relaxed; the 
customs of paganism were once more in the 
ascendant. 1 

There was an outburst of indignation at Medina ; 
the citizens were exasperated by seeing power escape 
them ; fuel was added to their wrath by Ali, Zobeir 
and Talha, who were intriguing for the Caliphate, and 
having based their hopes on the speedy demise of 
Othman, now* dreaded the ambition of the Meccans. 

On her side, Ai'sha, displeased with the attitude 
of the Koreich towards her, was intriguing among 
the tribes, inciting them to revolt and giving them 
as leader an ambitious young man named Mohammed, 
* $8-Samkoiidj p “ Hi&t. de M6dine,” 


the son of Abu-Bekr, whose vanity she had flattered 
and played upon. 

All this ill-feeling was focused upon Othman. 
A trivial incident precipitated events : when the 
Caliph went up into the pulpit at the mosque for the 
daily sermon, he took the same seat as Mahomet 
used to do, instead of sitting two steps lower down, 
as his predecessors had done. This action, probably 
unconscious, was exploited by the Caliph’s enemies, 
who accused him of making light of the memory of 
the Prophet. The former companions of Mahomet 
called upon him for an explanation, and he ill-used 
their messenger. On the following day, as Othman 
was about to take his usual place in the mosque, the 
Old Musulmans struck him and he would probably 
have been killed but for the intervention of Ali, 
always generous. An excited mob, at the instigation 
of Mohammed, son of Abu-Bekr, a tool of Aisha’s, 
besieged the Caliph’s house and called upon him to 
resign. Othman refused ; the insurgents then forced 
their way in and killed him . 1 The unfortunate old 
man paid with his life for his attachment to family 

During his Caliphate, Othman had added 
Armenia to the countries already subject to Islam. 
This province, taken from the Byzantines by the 
Persians, was torn by religious conflicts ; the Byzan- 
tines had spread Christianity among the people, but 
the nobles of the country had remained faithful to 
their old traditions and still practised Mazdeism. 
The Persians, taking an opposite line, persecuted the 
Christians and gave all the government posts to 
Ghebrs. The latter committed such exactions that 
the people, dying to get rid of them, welcomed the 
Musulman invasion. 

i TatW* “ Annales ,’ 1 



In Egypt, the new Governor, Abdallah Ben Saad, 
the unfaithful transcriber of verses from the Koran, 
a creature of the Koreich party, invaded Tripolitania 
and Byzacene (now Tunisia), moved by no very keen 
desire to make converts to Islam, but rather to give 
opportunities for pillage to his undisciplined troops . 1 
Under Roman rule these provinces had been cele- 
brated for their marvellous prosperity. The Roman 
colonists were rough peasants, who knew how to 
force the soil to yield, and had transformed the 
country into one vast orchard by developing the 
. cultivation of the olive and by a system of irriga- 
>tibn that no other nation has surpassed. But the 
'vandal invasion had ravaged this fertile country and 
destroyed the greater part of the irrigation works : 
and the Byzantines, in their hasty operations, had not 
succeeded in restoring the former prosperity. A 
•government overburdened by officials, the pet vice 
of the Emperors, entailed considerable expenditure : 
the consequent taxation weighed heavily upon the 
Berbers, who in the exasperation of their poverty 
were in a chronic state of revolt . 2 Like so many 
other nations, they saw in the Musulmans their 
chance of freedom. 

Gregory the patrician, Governor of the Greek 
possessions in Western Africa from the Barca desert 
to the Straits of Gibraltar, raised a “ scratch l> army 
which was decimated at the first encounter. The 
Musulmans gained considerable booty ; at the sack of 
Suffetula (Sbeitla) alone every horseman received 
three thousand pieces of gold, and each foot soldier 
one thousand. 

The Greeks, realizing the difficulty of the situa- 
tion, owing to the hostility of the Berbers, hastened to 

1 A1 Wakedi. 

2 Diehl, “ I/Afrique Byzantine/’ 



come to terms with Abdallah Ben Sa&d who, in 
consideration of an indemnity of two and a half 
million dinars, consented to return to Egypt. We 
can judge from this example that Othman’s generals 
concerned themselves but little with religious propa- 
ganda ; they preferred cash. Neither Khalid, Amru 
nor Zobeir would have acted thus. 1 Othman’s actual 
conquests were therefore trifling. 

After his assassination, the Old Musulmans, 
fearing the intrigues of the Meccans, hastened to 
raise Ali to the Caliphate, in spite of the active 
opposition of Aisha. This was the revenge of the 

Of a generous disposition, and, moreover, well 
pleased to be at the head of affairs, Ali would 
willingly have avoided reprisals; but, to satisfy the 
people about him he had to put orthodox Musulmans 
into all government posts in place of Othman’s 
favourites. But this did not prevent them from 
forming factions. 

Talha, Zobeir, and Mohammed, the son of Abu- 
Bekr, in causing Othman to be assassinated had 
calculated on taking his place. Disappointed in 
ambition, they took up a positien hostile to Ali ; they 
left Medina with rage in their hearts and joined 
forces with Aisha who was cursing the new Caliph 
with all the passion of a woman and an Oriental. 

Posing hypocritically as the avengers of Othman, 
secretly supported by the Meccans, they took refuge 
in Mesopotamia where they collected together all the 
malcontents. Ali followed them and defeated them 
in the battle of the Camel (656). Talha and Zobeir 
were killed ; Aisha, taken prisoner, had to implore her 
enemy’s pardon. 

This success assured to the Caliph the submission 
1 Sedillot, p. 160. 


of Arabia for the time being as well as of Irak and 
Egypt : there remained Syria. The Governor, 
Maowiah, gave out that he could not serve under a 
man who had not only left the murder of his kinsman 
unpunished, but had even granted favours to the 
assassins. As a matter of fact, Maowiah cared little 
about the call of the blood, but was tortured by 
ambition. He was very popular in Syria through 
his open-handedness, his luxurious court, and his 
liberalism; he had, moreover, amassed considerable 
wealth, had set up an army of his own, and aspired 
to the Caliphate . 1 

The moment seemed to him to be propitious. 
Ali counted but few friends ; the murder of Othman, 
of which he was innocent, but which was, neverthe- 
less, laid to his charge, had cost him the moral 
support of the masses. Maowiah calculated that, 
whenever he should take up the position of the 
avenger of his old relative, he would receive 
unanimous approval ; but above all he counted upon 
his money to bring him adherents. He had besides 
one valuable auxiliary, Amru, the conqueror of 
Egypt, who was popular throughout Islam and who, 
on his dismissal by Omar, had thrown in his lot with 
the Koreich. 

At the head of an army of eighty thousand men, 
Amru marched against Ali.® The rivals met in the 
plain of Seffin on the western bank of the Euphrates. 
The Caliph, feeling little confidence in the fidelity of 
his troops, hesitated to give battle, and attempted 
negotiations, but without result. Battle was joined ; 
on the side of Ali, the old companions of the Prophet 
accomplished prodigies of valour; their staunchness 
was on the point of succeeding, when Ali was the 

1 Dozy, ** Essai sur PHist. de PlslamismeP’ 

3 Ch. Mills, t{ Hist, du Mallometisme. ,, 



victim of an act of treachery of which the Arab 
authors have related all the details . 1 It will be well 
to give a resume of them, as they throw a clear light 
upon the psychology of the Musulman. 

At the moment when Maowiah, certain of his 
defeat, was making ready to fly, he caught sight of 
one of his counsellors, Amr, the son of Aci : “ You, 
who pride yourself upon your cunning,” he said, 
“ have you found a remedy for the disaster that is 
threatening us? You know I have promised you the 
governorship of Egypt if we win. What is to be 
done? ” 

Amr, who had spies among All’s people, replied : 
“You must order all your men who possess a 
copy of the Koran to tie it to the end of their lances ; 
at the same time you will declare that you appeal to 
the decision of the book. I guarantee that this is 
good advice.” 

Foreseeing the possibility of defeat, Amr had 
arranged this stratagem in advance with several of the 
leaders of the opposing army, notably with a certain 
Akhath, a man of well-known perfidy. 

Maowiah' followed Amr’s advice and ordered the 
Korans to be tied to the lances. So little had the 
Holy Book spread that in this army of eighty 
thousand men only five hundred copies could be 
raised. But that was enough in the eyes of Akhath 
and his friends, who, pressing round the Caliph 
exclaimed : “We accept the decision of the Book of 
God; we desire a suspension of hostilities.” 

“ This is an infamous trick,” said Ali with 
indignation, “ the Syrians hardly know what the 
Koran is.” 

“ But since we are fighting for the Book of God, 
we cannot refuse to admit it.” 

. 1 Masondi and Khahrastani. 



“We are fighting to compel the pagans to 
submit themselves to the laws of God. Do you 
suppose then that this Maowiah and Amr and all the 
rest of them trouble themselves about religion and 
the Koran? I have known them from childhood, 
they are scoundrels.” 

“ That does not matter, they are appealing to 
the Book of God, and you are appealing to the 

‘ £ Alas I I see only too clearly that you mean to 
desert me. Go then, and rejoin the coalition formed 
formerly against our Prophet ! Go and re-unite 
yourselves with these men who say : 4 God and his 
Prophet, all that is lies and imposture ! ’ ” 

“ Send an order at once to Akhtar (the leader of 
the cavalry) to retire; if you don’t, the fate of 
Othman awaits you.” 

Knowing that they would not shrink from carry- 
ing out their threat, Ali yielded. He sent the order 
to retreat to the victorious general who was pursuing 
the enemy at the sword’s point. Akhtar refused to 
obey. Then a new tumult arose. Ali repeated his 

“ But doesn’t the Caliph know that the victory is 
Ours? ” cried brave Akhtar. “ Shall I turn back at 
the moment when the enemy is about to suffer a 
complete rout? ” 

“ And what good would victory do you if in the 
meanwhile Ali was killed? ” said an Irak Arab, one 
of the messengers. 

The general resigned himself to retreat ; fighting 
ceased; Ali sent to ask Maowiah in what way he 
counted upon adjusting their differences by the 
Koran. Maowiah replied that they should each name 
an arbiter, and that these two personages should 
decide according to the Book of God. 


Maowiah chose his faithful counsellor Amr, son of 
Aci. Ali had at first named his cousin, Abd’Allah ; 
but as it was objected that his near kinsman would 
naturally be partial, be proposed Akhtar, the victori- 
ous general. This choice was also rejected, under 
the pretext that Akhtar, being one of the principal 
actors in the struggle could hardly be looked to for 
counsels of moderation. 

“ Very well,” said Ali, “ name the arbiter 
yourself! ” 

Akhath, the treacherous ally of Maowiah, was 

ec But,” cried Ali, in a climax of indignation, 
“ Akhath is my enemy, he detests me because I took 
the governorship of Kufa away from him.” This 
protest was in vain ; Ali was given to understand that 
he must conform to the general opinion, otherwise he 
would be forced to do so. 

The result of the arbitration could not be 
doubtful; Maowiah was proclaimed Caliph. Refus- 
ing to accept such a judgment, Ali collected together 
the few faithful followers who stood by him and 
wished to continue the fight. Deserted by his troops, 
who had been won over by the bribes of his rival, he 
lost Egypt and Arabia one after the other. It was 
then that the fanatics resolved to suppress the authors 
of this fratricidal contest, Ali, Amru, and Maowiah, 
in order to restore calm. But Amru and Maowiah 
were only wounded, whilst the unlucky Ali, the poor 
Don Quixote of Islam, was killed. 

His son Hassan was proclaimed Cafiph by the 
inhabitants of Kufa; but Maowiah was the real 
sovereign since he reigned over Syria, Egypt, and 
Arabia (661). 

The period of which the chief events have just 
been sketched is chiefly occupied with the rivalry 



between Mecca and Medina. The Medina party* 
triumphed at first with Mahomet, when he fled from 
Mecca and took refuge with them ; they also 
triumphed under his successors, Abu-Bekr and Omar. 

The Mecca party took their revenge with 
Othman ; fortune forsook them with Ali, but 
returned to them with Maowiah. This rivalry 
between Mecca and Medina dominates the whole 
history of Islam. It reveals the individualist spirit 
of the Arab, at the same time as it exposes to view 
the germ of the evil that later on was to contribute 
to the ruin of the Empire of the Caliphs. 

The period between the death of Mahomet (682) 
and that of Othman (656) was of capital importance 
to the Arabs and to Islam. In the short space of 
twenty-four years, the Bedouins, driven by poverty 
and the lust of plunder, left their deserts and rushed 
upon countries of Greco-Latin civilization. In 
Persia, Syria, and Egypt, they came into close 
contact with populations impregnated with Hellenism 
and Latinism, and naturally fell under their 
influence : they passed in a stride, as it were, from 
barbarism to civilization. 

The Islam that they carried with them in their 
warlike onslaught was then but a poor sort of faith, 
bare as the desert, empty as a Bedouin brain; but 
this faith, still only a babbling of religion, was not 
yet codified, drawn up and fixed; it rested merely 
upon two or three general principles, thus leaving 
room for a whole development of religious sentiments. 

The Arabs, incapable of invention, ignorant and 
illiterate, brought nothing to the peoples they 
subjected; on the contrary, they borrowed every- 
thing from them — methods of government, scientific 
knowledge, arts, and crafts. Their education was 
to be begun and carried through by the people they 



had vanquished ; they became Latinized and Hellen- 
ized to the very feeble extent permitted by the 
coarseness of their nature. Islam loaded itself with 
foreign beliefs, especially with what it borrowed from 
Christianity. If this process of assimilation could 
have gone on, if it had not been arrested in the second 
century of the Hegira by the Abbasside Caliphs, the 
Arabs would have been completely Latinized and 
Islam would have been dissolved in the Christian 
religion. But, from their contact with Greco-Latin 
civilization and with Christianity, the Arabs and 
Islam have preserved a sort of reflected lustre 
which has been mistaken for a civilization of their 
own, and has induced belief in an originality 
they never possessed. Nevertheless, these foreign 
contributions were so little in accord with the Arab 
spirit that they produced a hostile reaction which, 
from the beginning of the second century of the 
Hegira, has tended furiously to purify Islam, and to 
bring it back to its primitive nakedness. It was this 
reaction that dragged down into barbarism the nations 
subjected to the Arabs and stifled the last efforts of 
Greco-Latin civilization. 


Islam under the Ommeyads — The Theocratic Republic 
becomes a Military Monarchy — The Caliphate established 
at Damascus, where it comes under Syrian influence, that 
is to say, Greco-Latin — The rivalries which divided Mecca 
and Medina break out between these towns and Damascus 
— The conquest of the Moghreb, then of Spain, realized 
through the complicity of the inhabitants, anxious to get 
rid of the Greeks and Visigoths — The attempted conquest 
of Gaul fails owing to the stubborn resistance of the 
Franks, and marks the limit of Musulman expansion — 
The Ommeyad dynasty, extinguished in orgies of Byzan- 
tine decadence, gives place to the dynasty of the 

W ITH Maowiah the dynasty of the 
Ommeyads begins. The scene of the 
struggle for power is shifted. The 
leading Meccan families have emigrated 
to Syria where, through the favour of the new 
Caliph, they enjoy all the good things in his gift. 
It is now the Ivoreich of Mecca who govern 
Islam from Damascus. The Medina party, the Old 
Musulmans, the strict believers, faithfully devoted 
to the doctrine of Mahomet, struggle no longer 
against Mecca but against Damascus, or rather 
against Syrian influence. For, whilst the Koreich 
of Mecca, now established in Damascus, held power 
nominally, it was in reality the Syrians who exercised 
it; that is to say, a non- Arab people, converts of 
recent date, who had as yet received but a faint 
impression of Islam. And as the Syrians were of 
Greco-Latin civilization, the struggle was in the end 
between this classical influence and Arab mentality. 



The Syrians had recovered their foi-mer position ; 
for, whereas under the Caliphate of Omar they had 
been treated as pariahs, under Maowiah they enjoyed 
untrammelled freedom . 1 A clever people, intellec- 
tually emancipated, little troubled by scruples of 
conscience and capable of adapting themselves to 
circumstances with wonderful pliability, they had 
willingly gone over to Islam, since their conversion 
enabled them to enjoy the same rights and privileges 
as their conquerors. But, nevertheless, under the 
outward show of Mahometanism they had kept intact 
their own customs and mentality. And as, by their 
knowledge and education, by their Greco-Latin 
culture, they were the only people capable of holding 
administrative posts, it was they who governed on 
behalf of the Arab conqueror. Their activity did 
not stop there. 

As heirs to the Byzantine civilization, of a culture 
incomparably superior to any that may have been 
possessed by the Arabs, they had given to Rome the 
family of the “ Syrian Emperors,” who reigned 
from Septimus Severus to Alexander Severus. Au 
courant with the latest advances in science, art, and 
the philosophy of the Greco-Latin schools, they 
exerted a considerable influence upon every phase of 
contemporary thought. 

In the Damascus of that day the greater part of 
the Greek and Latin authors were known; many 
people read them in the original, whilst numerous 
Syriac translations placed them within reach of 
the masses. People wei’e quite carried away by 
their enthusiasm for the theories of the various 

Before the Arab conquest, in the time when 
Christianity prevailed, they carried on controversies 

1 G. Weil, “ Hint, den Califes.” 


on the most strained subtleties of religious meta- 
physics; they argued about the human and the 
divine nature of Christ; at Damascus they were 
monophysite, that is to say they considered any 
distinction between the two natures impossible, 
since the divine had absorbed the human nature. 1 

Syrian architects, by combining Greek with 
Persian art, had created what came to be called 
Byzantine art. It was they, notably, who con- 
structed the first domes ; that of Santa Sophia (532) 
is the work of the Syrian Athemios of Thrales. 

We see to how high a degree of intellectual 
culture the Syrians had attained, and how far 
superior they were to their Arab masters — rough, 
coarse soldiers, solely preoccupied with the enjoy- 
ment of life without troubling themselves as to what 
philosophers might think about it. 

The Syrians took up the education of their 
conqueror; they taught the ignorant Bedouin the 
science and art of Greece; the Bedouin did not 
understand it all, his brain was not yet sufficiently 
supple ; he retained of this teaching only just so much 
as was accessible to him, but what he did retain was 
in its essence exclusively Greco-Latin. What he 
acquired was Greco-Latin civilization as assimilated 
by the Syrians, that is to say, somewhat distorted in 
transmission through an Oriental mentality. 

Those Arabs who had emigrated to Syria came 
completely under this foreign influence ; as primitive 
creatures, they were at once captivated by the science 
of luxury, of comfort and of elegance seen at its best 
in this refined society. The comfortable houses, the 
baths, the choice food, the dress, the perfumes, the 
perverted pleasures of sense filled them with delight 
of which they had had no previous conception. They 

1 Lebeauj u Hist, du Bas-Empire.” 


made no resistance to the temptation to imitate the 
Syrians and to live as they did. The Caliph set them 
the example: Maowiah was an intelligent Bedouin 
and a hedonist in one. From the time when he 
was a provincial governor, under the Caliphate of 
Omar, he had adopted the manners of the country. 
Raised to supreme power, he continued a mode of 
life that responded to his tastes. The Musulman 
Court at Damascus came to resemble the former 
Byzantine court ; it copied, sometimes to the length 
of caricature, its elegance, its luxury, and its 
pleasures. Syria may be said to have been the tomb 
of Arab energy ; there the Bedouins attained a 
certain degree of culture and refinement; but they 
lost their sobriety and their powers of endurance. 
Byzantine civilization followed the course of its 
evolution under Musulman domination, and the 
conquering Bedouin, incapable, by reason of his 
ignorance, of giving any sort of direction to this 
evolution, could only admire from a distance and 
from below . 1 

This Arab-Syrian society formed a remarkable 
contrast to that of Medina; in the latter it was a 
Musulman society, such as Mahomet had imagined, 
or such at least as his bigoted disciples had evolved 
from a too narrow and too strict interpretation of 
the Prophet’s injunctions. In Syria it was a 
Byzantine society behind a Musulman facade. The 
two societies could neither understand nor like each 
other. The violent strife which had formerly divided 
Islam through the rivalry of Mecca and Medina was 
followed by the exasperated hostility of Medina 
against Damascus. 

The Medina party set their hopes upon Hassan, 
son of Ali, who had been proclaimed Caliph at Kufa ; 

3 G. Weil, <( Hist, des Califes.” 



but this young man, the degenerate son of the most 
noble representative of Islam, was nothing but an 
effeminate voluptuary, leading a life of debauchery 
and low sensuality surrounded by women and 
favourites. He would have been quite content to 
continue his life of pleasure ; but his party, amongst 
whom was Kais, the Defender, son of Saad, a wild 
fanatic, compelled him to take the field. He 
resigned himself to their demands, much against the 
grain, but conducted the war with such indolence 
and such notorious incapacity that his troops were 
soon decimated. It is even probable that this 
cowardly creature tried to insure himself against the 
future by treating secretly with Maowiah. In any 
case, he made his first check a pretext for concluding 
an arrangement with his rival, by which he gave 
up his claims to the Caliphate in consideration of a 
magnificent pension. 

Kais had to get back to Arabia with a few faithful 
followers; he took refuge in Medina, where the 
inhabitants, discouraged and unable to contend 
openly against the Caliph, were forced to disguise 
their feelings and hope for better times (661). 1 

Maowiah, relieved from the anxiety of civil war, 
continued his life of luxury and entertainments ; and, 
as it took a great deal of money to keep up such 
state, he set himself to get it out of the conquered 
peoples. Circumstances compelled him to take up 
the role of administrator, in which he displayed 
marked ability. He entrusted the government of 
Egypt to his faithful Amru, who was instructed to 
squeeze the people. Maowiah even undertook cer- 
tain conquests. Whilst he was governor of Syria, 
he had taken possession of the islands of Crete, Cos, 
and Rhodes (649). In 655 he had destroyed an 

1 Es-Samhoudi, u Hist, de Mediae.’ ’ 


important section of the fleet of Constantine II., off 
the coast of Lycia. He now conceived the idea of 
attacking Constantinople, but his efforts were in 
vain. The Greeks had made a discovery which 
assured them a marked superiority over their 
adversaries — “ Greek fire ” — which enabled them to 
burn ships from a distance and had a terrifying effect 
upon their assailants. Greek fire may be said to have 
prolonged the existence of the Byzantine Empire. 

Maowiah looked for more easily attainable success 
in another quarter : he sent an army into Byzacena — 
the present Tunisia — where, aided by dissensions 
among the Berbers and by their hostility to the 
Greeks, this army took possession of the province 
(665). 1 The Caliph entrusted the government of the 
conquered territory to a Musulman fanatic, Okba 
Ben Nafa. Impelled by proselytizing zeal, the 
latter overran North Africa, burning, slaughtering, 
and pillaging. He reached the farthest shores of 
Morocco ; and it is said that, carried away by religious 
exaltation, and finding his task all too soon accom- 
plished, he rode into the sea, and when his horse 
could go no farther, cried : “ God of Mahomet, if I 
were not held back by these waves, I would go on and 
carry the glory of thy name to the confines of the 
Universe! ”* 

It would be a mistake to conclude from the rapid 
conquest of the Moghreb that Islam had at its 
disposal any prodigious material force. Okba’s 
troops numbered no more than a few thousand men, 
but they were war-worn veterans and hungry for 
plunder. The Greek troops, even less in number, 
were of poor quality, and the Berbers, who formed 
the bulk of the population, were hostile to them. 

1 Diehl, “ L’Afrique Byzantine.” 

2 Abd~Er~B.ahman Ibn Abd-El-Hakem, the earliest historian of 
the Moslem invasion of the Moghrelb. 



These same Berbers, almost all of them Christians, 
were not very learned in the matter of dogma ; their 
belief was freely tinged with paganism ; the majority 
of them knew no more than the bare outline of 
the Christian tenets, and were ignorant of the 
details of its doctrine and worship. The reason is 
simple : the language of religion was Latin, and 
the country Berbers only spoke a dialect allied to 

Saint Augustine has frequently insisted upon the 
difficulties that the general ignorance of the Latin 
tongue placed in the way of Christian missionaries in 
Africa . 1 And as the numerous Christian sects, 
divided by metaphysical subtleties, threw further 
confusion into the native mind by their discussions 
and their polemics, the rural populations, incapable of 
establishing any distinction between Christianity and 
Islam, not unnaturally mistook for Christians those 
who spoke to them of a one and only God, of the day 
of resurrection, of a messenger sent by God, and of 
a revealed Book, all expressions that could equally be 
applied to the God of the gospels, to Christ and 
to the Holy Scriptures . 2 So that from the very 
first the Berbers received the Musulmans without 
hostility ; some of them saw in the invaders Christian 
schismatics ; the majority looked upon them as 
liberators who came to rid them of their Greek 
oppressors . 3 

Later on, when they came to know the Arabs 
better and made acquaintance with the bigoted 
tyranny of Musulman law, they changed their 
opinion; but then the time for resistance had gone 
by. Thinking to escape from the Greeks, they had 

1 Saint Augustine. Serin. 25. Id. De Moribus; Maniehoaoruna, 
C. 19. 

3 H. Ritter, iC Hist, de la philosophic chretienne.” 

3 Ibn Adhari, n Hist de PAfrique et de PEspagne.” 



fallen into the hands of other masters just as pitiless 
and in addition fanatical. 

Before his death, Maowiah, under the advice of 
the Koreich emigrants in Syria, and with a view to 
benefiting his own family, wished to make the 
Caliphate hereditary. To avoid the election which it 
had hitherto been customary to hold, he appointed 
his son Yezid as his successor. 

Yezid, the son of a high-spirited Bedouin mother, 
had been brought up in the desert in the rough and 
dangerous life of a nomad. Blunt in speech, he 
despised the pomp of palaces, the etiquette of courts, . 
the hypocritical diplomacy of refinement . 1 He was 
a haughty Bedouin, rough, generous, capable of the 
worst violence and of the most crazy liberality, with 
no other rule of conduct than the gratification of his 
passions. He loved sport, the pleasures of the table, 
women, wine, and play ; he troubled himself but little 
about religion, but believed just about enough in God 
and his Prophet to be a Musulman ; but any strict 
observance of the Koranic commandments was not to 
be expected of him. 

As he was wont to give expression to his thoughts 
crudely, without tact or reserve, and as he treated the 
faithful believers as hypocritical bigots, he was looked 
upon by the Old Musulmans of Medina as a horrible 
pagan. Having the support of the Syrians, who 
regarded him as a worthy successor to Maowiah, a 
young wild animal whom they proposed to tame, he 
was able to laugh at the indignation of the pious 

He had a difficult start.: the Hedjaz and Irak, 
judging the moment propitious, rose in revolt for 
various reasons. The peasants of Irak, who had only 
been broken to Islam by the worst acts of violence, 

1 Q. Woil, c( Hist, des Calif es.” 



loathed the Arabs, whose exactions had ruined them ; 
they longed to escape from the necessity of paying 
the heavy tribute demanded by the conqueror, and 
to regain their liberty. The people of the Hedjaz 
claimed to conserve the right of proclaiming the 
sovereign, in the hope of nominating one of them- 
selves, and of keeping the seat of the Caliphate at 

This was the old opposition of the men of Medina 
to Damascus and the Ommeyads ; and it was further 
increased by the contempt with which Maowiah had 
treated the Arab provinces. He had forced upon 
them governors of inconceivable brutality, such as 
JZiad, his adopted brother, who, accompanied by 
spies and executioners, mercilessly stamped out every 
show of insubordination. 

It was in these circumstances that Hassan, the 
eldest son of Ali, the former adversary of the Caliph, 
had been poisoned at Medina ; that Aisha, the 
intriguing widow of the Prophet, had been killed; 
that Hejer, an important personage in Kufa, too 
devoted to the cause of the Alides, had been 
executed, and that at Bassora eight thousand rebels 
had been exterminated in a few months. In short, 
the men of Medina, who had always been staunch in 
their bigoted puritanism, would not allow the highest 
dignity in Islam to be entrusted to a prince who in 
their opinion was a Musulman in name only. 

The rebels confided the defence of their cause to 
Hussein, the second son of Ali, who was distinguished 
by his energy and by his hatred of the Ommeyads. 
When he heard of the coming of Yezid, he 
exclaimed : “ Never will I recognize Yezid as my 
sovereign ; he is a drunkard and a debauchee, and is 
mad upon hunting.” 

Impetuous by nature, Hussein took up the 



struggle with more vigour than ability; and being 
drawn into an ambush he was killed ( 680 ). When 
the news of his death reached the Hedjaz, the 
fervent Musulmans were astounded; it seemed as if 
the divine protection had forsaken them ; they were 
plunged into depression, when Abd’Allah, son of 
the Zobeir who had been Ali’s enemy, came to 
revive their resentment and had himself proclaimed 
Caliph at Medina. It was an act of madness. 
Yezid, with considerable forces at his command, took 
possession of the town and treated it with implacable 
rigour. He handed it over to pillage for three days ; 
the mosque, containing Mahomet’s tomb, was turned 
into a stable for the horses of the cavalry; women 
were violated; children were either massacred or 
taken into slavery. As for the survivors, they were 
only spared after they had acknowledged themselves 
Yezid ’s slaves and had given him the free disposal of 
their property. The former nobility of Mecca, who 
had emigrated to Syria, avenged themselves upon the 
new religious aristocracy of Medina. 

The Medinans had to resign themselves to their 
fate. But there were some, of proud soul and 
ardent faith, who preferred to seek a refuge in exile 
rather than submit. In their search for a new 
country far enough away from the conqueror for 
them to be able to live in peace, they found a refuge 
in the Moghreb where they formed very vigorous 
communities. It is in these communities that are to 
be found the origin of the Zaouias, nr centres of 
religious propaganda. By their unremitting piety 
the refugees exercised a powerful influence over the 
Berbers of whom they gradually made a complete 
moral conquest. It is to them that certain portions 
of the population of the Moghreb owe their attach- 
ment to Islam and their bigoted fanaticism. 



Even down to the present day, nowhere in all 
the provinces of Dar-el-Islam is the Musulman 
religion observed and practised with such fervour. It 
is the old spirit of Medina that, driven out of Arabia, 
has remained alive and active among the Berbers 
through all the intervening centuries. 

Yezid intended to continue his work of pacifica- 
tion ; but death cut it short (683). 

There followed a fresh period of anarchy, with all 
the provinces in a state of effervescence, each one of 
them claiming the right to choose the Caliph, and, 
lest they should be anticipated, actually nominating 
him. The Hedjaz nominated Abd’Allah, son of 
Zobeir, but he lacked the boldness that compels for- 
tune to yield her favours. Syria chose Maowiah II., 
son of Yezid ; but, as the son of a drunkard, brought 
up in the effeminate manners of the palace, he was a 
feeble creature who dared not face battle, and who, 
moreover, worn out by precocious indulgence in 
pleasure, died soon afterwards. Some thought of 
Walid, grandson of Abu-Sofian and a former 
governor of Medina, but the plague carried him 
off. Others thought of Khalid, the brother of 
Maowiah II., but he was still a child. 

There was the same ferment in Irak, in 
Mesopotamia, and in Egypt. Each town elected a 
Caliph whom it dismissed the following day in order 
to nominate another. Islam was in a fair way to 
sink in anarchy when Hussein came upon the scene, 
the general of the army that had been operating in 
the Hedjaz. He arrived with a candidate, Merwan, 
son of Hakem, and a cousin of Maowiah. 

A sort of diet was convoked at Djabia to examine 
the claims of this applicant, and consumed forty days 
in its deliberations. There was some fear of the 
friend of Hussein : “ If Merwan gets the Caliphate,” 


they said, “ we shall be his slaves ; he has ten sons, 
ten brothers, ten nephews.” 1 But Hussein had 
powerful arguments at his disposal, he had the army ; 
his choice had perforce to be accepted ; nevertheless 
the Syrians, anxious for their interests, demanded 
guarantees; and the Caliph had to pledge himself 
solemnly to govern only in accordance with the 
counsels of those who had nominated him, and in 
addition, to designate as his successor the young 
Khalid who was meanwhile to receive the governor- 
ship of Emesa (Homs). 

By Hussein’s advice, Merwan used force, pacify- 
ing Syria and Mesopotamia and then Egypt by fire 
and sword. He was about to deal with Arabia when 
death carried him off (684). 

His son, Abd-el-Malik, ignoring the promises 
made to Khalid, the son of Yezid, had himself 
proclaimed Caliph (685). There ensued renewed 
movements of revolt; Mecca and Medina rose, then 
Irak, determined to recover her independence — Irak 
seething with every form of heresy and schism. 2 In 
one district Islam would take on the colour of 
Mazdeism, in another that of Christianity ; here 
Mazdeism would ally itself with Christianity; else- 
where, the three religions would blend together; 
Irak was thus a perfect Babel of beliefs and dogmas ; 3 
fanatics ready for martyrdom rubbed shoulders with 
agnostics; austere believers lived side by side with 
agreeable Epicureans. Burning conflicts naturally 
arose, leading to a state of anarchy that exhausted the 

Abd-el-Malik re-established order by energetic 
measures. In 690 he had succeeded in imposing his 
rule upon the Eastern provinces of the Empire. 

1 Ibn-Khaldoun. 

2 Gobineau, u Les relig. et philosophies de PAsje central©.” 

» Sylrestre de Sacy, “ Expose de la religion des D ruses” 



There remained the Hedjaz, in a chronic state of 
revolt against Damascus. This time it was Mecca 
that, under the lead of Abd’ Allah, son of Zobeir, was 
directing the movement. Abd-el-Malik sent a cer- 
tain Hadjadj, formerly a schoolmaster, who had 
become chief of the army, through favour, against 
Mecca . 1 Hadjadj laid siege to the sacred city, an act 
of sacrilege in the eyes of the believers, but of 
indifference to him. Abd’Allah held out for eight 
months; then became discouraged and talked of 
surrender. His mother, a wild Bedouin, dissuaded 
him from this course in words of Roman pride : 

“ Mother,” said he, “ my friends are forsaking 
me, and my enemies are again offering me very 
acceptable conditions. What do you advise me 
to do?” 

“ To die,” she replied. 

“ But I am afraid that if I fall into the hands of 
the Syrians, they will avenge themselves upon my 

“ And what does that matter to you? Does 
the slaughtered sheep suffer, then, if she is 
skinned? ” 

These rough words brought a blush of shame to 
Abd’Allah’s cheek ; he hastened to assure his mother 
that he shared her sentiments, and that he had only 
meant to prove her. Shortly afterwards, he came 
again into her presence, armed from head to foot, to 
bid her a last farewell. As she pressed him to her 
heart her hand felt a coat of mail. 

“ When one has decided to die, one has no need 
of this,” said she. 

“ I only put on this armour to give you some 
hope,” said he, somewhat disconcerted. 

“ I have bid adieu to hope ; take this off ! ” 

1 Ibn-Kotaiba. 



He obeyed her, and having prayed awhile in the 
Kaaba, this hero without heroism threw himself on 
to the foe and met an honourable death. His head 
was sent to Damascus, and his body nailed to a 
gibbet upside down . 1 

Damascus remained the capital of the Empire, 
whilst Mecca and Medina had to resign themselves to 
being no more than religious centres. 

Hadjadj then pacified Irak, Khorassan, and 
Seijestan. Abd-el-Malik was able to taste in peace 
the joys of supreme power. Carrying on the tradi- 
tion of his predecessors, he adopted the pomp and 
luxury of the Byzantine emperors. His court 
followed suit. In contact with sceptics the faith 
became blunted ; the Koran was still regarded as the 
sole code, but the observance of its commandments 
was neglected. The Caliphs set the example of lax 
observance ; Yezid drank wine, in spite of the express 
prohibition of the Prophet; Abd-el-Malik struck 
coins bearing his own image girt with a sword. 
These tendencies, exaggerated by the flattery of 
courtiers, were followed by the greater number; a 
too rigid piety came to be looked down upon. In 
contact with so many diverse nations — Greeks, 
Syrians, Persians, Egyptians, and Berbers, Islam 
lost its primitive purity; its principles deteriorated. 
Sects who borrowed their ideas from the doctrines of 
philosophers and from foreign religions, sprang up 
on all sides, interpreting the Musulman dogmas in a 
hundred different ways. The result was a prodigious 
mixture of beliefs and superstitions which engrafted 
themselves upon Islam and modified its original 
inspiration . 2 This influence of foreign nations upon 
the Arabs is of considerable importance, and will be 

1 Ibn-Kotaiba. 

a Sylvestre de Sacy, op, cit. 


studied in greater detail in the further course of this 

Before his death, Abd-el-Malik, knowing all he 
owed to Hadjadj, recommended him to his son 
Walid : “ My son,” said he, “ always have the most 
profound respect for Hadjadj ; it is to him that thou 
owest thy throne; he is thy sword; he is thy right 
arm, and thou hast more need of him than he hath 
need of thee .” 1 

Walid, raised to the Caliphate without opposition, 
took in hand the pacification of Africa. The Berbers, 
in accordance with their fickle character, had not been 
long in rising against the Arabs; taking everything 
into account, they preferred the Greeks. And so, 
profiting by the difficulties in which the Caliphs 
found themselves involved through interior divisions, 
they joined forces with their former masters in 
opposition to the Musulmans. 

One of Walid’s generals, Hassan, then invaded 
Byzacena (Tunisia), penetrated as far as Kairouan, 
founded by Okba, but which had been retaken by 
the Berbers in alliance with the Greeks; he then 
attacked Carthage, which he took by assault and 
destroyed, after having put it to the sack. But his 
task was not yet ended ; he had still to subdue the 
Berbers of the interior. The latter, habitually 
disunited, were, for a wonder, now united at the call 
of a woman of great prestige : Kahina. Endowed 
with superhuman energy, skilful to profit by the most 
trivial events to draw from them ingenious deductions, 
brave almost to foolhardiness, she exercised a power- 
ful ascendancy over the tribes who rose at her appeal. 
Circumstances were favourable to her ; after the sack 
of Carthage, Hassan’s troops, loaded with a fabulous 
booty, were not at all anxious to risk fresh adven- 

1 Soyouti, tl Tarikh and Kholafa.” 


tures ; they wished for time to enjoy what they had 
won, and their general had to take them back to 
Egypt to let them get rid of their wealth . 1 

The Berbers, emboldened by this hasty retreat, 
plundered the country. Hassan then returned to 
Africa determined to make an end of Kahlua. But 
she, cleverly avoiding a set battle, sought to tire out 
the enemy by rear-guard skirmishes, and to starve 
him by making a desert of the country round him. 
“ The Arabs,” she said, “ want to take towns, gold 
and silver ; whilst we only want to keep our fields for 
cultivation and pasture. I think, therefore, there is 
only one plan to follow : that is to waste the country 
in order to discourage them .” 2 

By her orders, plantations of trees, the remains of 
the Roman orchards, were destroyed, houses burned, 
springs either poisoned or stopped, so that the land 
from Tripoli to Tangier which used to form one 
immense garden with villages scattered here and 
there, was turned into a wilderness . 3 

But the Berbers were incapable of any sustained 
action patiently pursued in common; they were 
divided by rivalries and Kahina was betrayed and 

Walid made an independent province of the 
Moghreb which was soon populated by Musulmans 
who had emigrated from Arabia as a consequence 
of religious quarrels. Arabs and Berbers finally 
amalgamated, their mutual resemblance in manners 
and feelings levelled the barriers which neither the 
Romans, the Vandals, nor the Greeks had been able 
to pass, and the Berbers became the firmest supporters 
of the Musulman cause. When the war was carried 

1 Ibn Adhari, op. oit. 

2 En Noueiri, “ Trad, par de Slane, en appendice a THist. dea 

3 Abd-er-Bahman Ibn Said and El KairouanL 


into Spain, some of them, however, refused to 
associate with the Arab population, and their 
descendants, under the name of Kabyles, are now 
living in the mountains of Algeria, preserving 
their national character and their hatred of the 

Moussa ben Noceir, who had been appointed 
governor of the Moghreb, and whose people he knew 
from having lived amongst them, succeeded by his 
able policy in winning the confidence of the Berbers . 1 
Taking advantage of their rivalries and differences, he 
made use of certain sections of them to assist him in 
subduing the others. He enlisted the better elements 
in his own troops, thus adding to their power 
and number. Having at his command considerable 
forces, he wished to employ them in further con- 
quests. Spain tempted him. He had been led to 
interest himself in it during the course of the 
struggles he had had to maintain against the Visigoths 
near Ceuta. These people had been established in 
the Iberian peninsula since the fifth century, and also 
occupied certain points in Moghreb-el-Aksa. 

An unexpected occurrence caused him to hasten 
the execution of his project. Count Julian, the 
Governor of Ceuta, desirous of avenging an insult, 
offered him his assistance and advice. Moussa took 
him at his word, and sent twelve thousand men over 
into Spain, the greater part of them Berber volun- 
teers attracted by the lust of plunder and led by one 
of their own chiefs, Tarik. 

There happened here again what had formerly 
happened in the provinces subject to the Persian and 
Byzantine Governments : the native population, dis- 
contented with their lot, received the Musulmans 
as liberators. Spain, wasted by a succession of 
1 E. M^rcier, c< Hist, de I’Afriqne septentrionale.” 


improvident governments, was then in a state of open 
anarchy. The evil dated from far back, from the 
time of the later Cassars. The people were divided 
into five classes : the rich, the favourites of fortune, 
great landed proprietors, living in idleness on the 
labours of metayers, and slaves. 1 

The plebeians of the towns, a riotous mob, 
formidable on account of their numbers, and trading 
upon the fear they inspired, lived, without working, 
on the free rations of the government and the charity 
of the rich. 

The curiales, small proprietors living in the 
towns, were charged with the administration of muni- 
cipal affairs. These functions had been entrusted to 
well-to-do people because in case of necessity they 
made up out of their own purses the deficits due to 
the insolvency of the tax-payers — by no means an 
enviable post, involving heavy obligations. The 
curiales were not even able to escape by tendering 
their resignations or by selling their property, because 
the office was in its nature hereditary and because 
they were not allowed to dispose of their property 
without the authorization of the Emperor, the owner 
of the soil. Sometimes these unfortunate men, 
weary of an intolerable existence, abandoned every- 
thing and ran away ; but they were reinstated in their 
curia by force, so that the curial dignity, formerly 
considered as a privilege, amounted to a disgrace and 
a punishment. 2 

The rural population comprised colonists and 
slaves ; the colonists occupying an intermediate 
position between the free proprietor and the slave. 
He was, in fact, a sort of metayer, handing over to 
the owner of the land a settled proportion of the 

*I)os5y, ‘‘Hist. des Musuhnans d’Espagne.” 

Siemondi, “ Hist, de la chute de 1’ Empire Bomain/ 5 t. L, p. 50, 



harvest ; he could contract a marriage and could hold 
land, but he could not alienate his property without 
the consent of his overlord. He paid a personal tax 
to the State, which had become very heavy in 
consequence of the ever-increasing demands of the 
Emperors and the parasitism of the urban population. 
Colonists were liable, like slaves, to corporal punish- 
ment and were forbidden to change their rank. They 
were slaves not of a master but of the soil, and were 
attached to the fields they cultivated by an indissoluble 
hereditary bond, the proprietor not being able to sell 
his fields without the colonists nor of the colonists 
without the fields ( adscript i glebae). 1 

As for the slaves, their position is too well known 
for it to be necessary to recall it. 

Such a polity was necessarily in a state of unstable 
equilibrium, since the individual, apart from the rich 
who were in a small minority, had no interest in 
maintaining the regime. The curiales, the colonists, 
and the slaves were too wretched not to hope for some 
improvement in their position from a change of 
government. The population of the towns, accus- 
tomed to a parasitic life, reckoned upon enjoying this 
privilege under any regime, and the prospeot of 
troubles could only be pleasing to them as favouring 
plunder. So it happened that when the barbarians 
wished to penetrate into Spain, they met with no 
serious opposition. “ On the approach of the 
Barbarians who advanced sombre, irresistible, and 
inevitable, men sought to forget their danger in 
orgies of feasting and drunkenness, to exalt their 
brains by the delirium of the debauch. Whilst the 
enemy was forcing the gates of their town, the rich, 
drunk and gorged with food, danced and sang, their 

1 Giroud, <£ Essai siu* THist. du Droit frauds au Moyen-Ajge/’ 
t. i„ p. 147. 


trembling lips sought to kiss the bare shoulders of 
beautiful slaves, and the people, to accustom them- 
selves to the sight of blood and to intoxicate themselves 
with the reek of carnage, applauded the gladiators 
who cut each others’ throats in the amphitheatre .” 1 

The Vandals, the Visigoths, and the Suevi 
ravaged the country, aided in their work of destruc- 
tion by the ruined small proprietors, by the slaves, 
and by the townspeople. But their yoke was much 
more grievous to bear than the former authority of 
Rome. The people, robbed of all they possessed, 
treated as slaves and subjected to excessive war levies, 
soon hated the invaders as they had hated the Caesars. 
Every scourge of the Roman epoch was still in 
existence : property in the hands of a privileged few, 
slavery, and general serfdom, by virtue of which the 
cultivators were assigned to the land . 3 The Christian 
priests were the only ones who had gained by the 
change. From having been despised and jeered at 
by the sceptical Romans, they became the counsellors, 
the directors of conscience of the Barbarians; but 
they were not equal to the situation; possibly they 
were overpowered by numbers ; however that may be, 
instead of moderating the brutal instincts of the mass 
and of preaching to them the lofty sentiments that 
had been the glory of the downtrodden Church, they 
flattered their passions and their vices ; instead of 
condemning slavery, they themselves held slaves. 
Once risen to power, they had forgotten the teachings 
of Christ. 

Spain under the Visigoths was even more unhappy 
than under the Romans ; so that when the troops of 
Moussa appeared and the Musulman leaders had 
announced that all those who submitted would enjoy 

1 Salvien, Liv. vi. 

Bureau de la Malle, ** Econ. pol. des RoIHaius, ,, 

t. ii., p. 54, 



the same rights as their conquerors and would pay 
no more than the minimum taxes prescribed by 
the Koran, the populace received them with joy. 
Roderic, the king of the Visigoths, deserted by his 
best auxiliaries, was defeated and slain in the first 
encounter near Xeres (711). It needed only this to 
bring the worm-eaten Empire down in ruins. The 
malcontents and the oppressed made the invaders’ 
task an easy one. 

The serfs remained neutral from fear of saving 
their masters ; the Jews rose and placed themselves at 
the disposal of the Musulmans. 1 By 713 the entire 
peninsula had been brought into subjection. 

In Spain there was a repetition of what had taken 
place in Syria. The people having been under Latin 
influence for several centuries had attained a high 
degree of civilization and were possessed of an 
intellectual culture incomparably superior to that of 
the Arabs. The misgovernment of the later Caesars, 
the exactions and brutality of the Visigoths had 
paralysed its economic activity and created a state of 
lawlessness little favourable to the arts and sciences ; 
but they had natural aptitudes and a stock of acquired 
knowledge that enabled them under a more liberal 
rule rapidly to recover their former prosperity. 

The rule of the conquering Arab was of this 
character : the taxes he imposed were insignificant in 
comparison with those of the preceding governments. 
The land, taken out of the hands of the rich class who 
held immense estates, badly cultivated by metayers 
and by slaves discontented with their lot, was 
equitably divided among the inhabitants of the 
country. It was worked with zeal by its new 
possessors and yielded abundant crops. Commerce, 
freed from the fetters which had impeded it and 

1 Dozy, op. &U, p. 36, 


relieved of the heavy taxes that had borne it down, 
developed to considerable proportions. The slaves, 
being allowed by the Koran to redeem themselves by 
the payment of a reasonable indemnity, set to work 
with a will. The result was a state of general well- 
being that caused the Musulman rule to be accepted 
with favour at first . 1 

The Arabs, incapable of administering the country 
themselves, passed on this duty to the Spaniards. 
As in Syria, they adopted the manners and customs 
of a conquered people more civilized than themselves, 
and allowed themselves to become softened by the 
luxury and refinement of Latin decadence. It was 
once more possible to cultivate literature, the arts and 
sciences ; a new fire of civilization was kindled, or 
rather relighted, for it was the flame of Greco-Latin 
genius that sprang up from the ashes under which 
the barbarism of the Visigoths had buried it. The 
government was Arab and Musulman, but the com- 
munity, saturated with Latin and Christian ideas, 
reacted upon the conqueror and effected a change in 
his mentality. He in no way contributed to this 
renaissance, being quite devoid of intellectual culture ; 
he merely noted it, without power to direct or 
influence it. As for Islam, it did not concern itself 
with individuals. 

Moussa cared little about religion, and his 
auxiliaries, Berbers for the most part, cared even 
less. Being besides very little versed in the dogmas 
and principles of the doctrine in the name of which 
they had conquered Spain, they left the inhabitants 
to accommodate themselves to the commandments of 
the Sacred Book in their own way . 2 The result was 
a singular mixture of Christian and Musulman ideas. 

1 Dozy. op, cit, 

2 De Castries, “ L’lelain,” p. 85, 



This laxity exasperated the pious believers from 
Medina who formed part of the conquering army, and 
was duly reported to the Caliph. Moussa and Tarik, 
accused of ungodliness, were recalled to Syria. The 
former was disgraced, then exiled to Mecca, where he 
ended his days in misery ; the latter was detained in 
Asia, where he was provided with a command. 

Under the Caliphate of Walid, the Musulman 
Empire was greatly extended ; to the conquest of 
Spain must be added that of Tartary and part of 
India ; so that Islam now reigned from Spain to the 
Himalayas. His successors added little in the way 
of conquests. His brother Soliman died prematurely 
after a reign of two years (715-717). 

Omar, a cousin of the preceding, a vassal of 
the Alides, drew upon himself the hatred of the 
Ommeyads and was poisoned (717-720). He was 
succeeded by Yezid II., brother of Soliman. It was 
during this Caliphate that the Musulmans attempted 
the conquest of Gaul. Here for the first time Islam 
experienced a check, of which it will not be difficult 
to point out the causes. 

In Syria, Persia and Egypt, in the Moghreb and 
in Spain, the invader had been assisted by the hatred 
of the inhabitants of the country for their foreign 
rulers, whether Byzantines, Sassanians or Visigoths. 
The position of Gaul was different ; set free from the 
Homan yoke, then upset by the barbarian invasion 
of the fifth century, the country had passed through 
a long period of anarchy; but the instinct of self- 
preservation and possibly some obscure sentiment of 
order had induced the various tribes who were jostled 
together in a prodigious mixture, to form themselves 
into groups according to their interests and affinities. 

At the moment of the Musulman invasion, the 
country was not under the rule of. any foreign power, 


which would have created malcontents ready for 
revolt, as was the case in the territories enslaved by 
Greece and Persia ; but, being divided into provinces 
forming so many small kingdoms, satisfied with their 
lot, devoted to their customs, and moreover possessing 
great fighting qualities and that roughness of manners 
that makes warriors, they were ready to defend their 

This was one primary cause of the Arabs’ check. 
Instead of finding a welcoming population hailing 
them as liberators, they were confronted by men 
fiercely resolved to defend their liberty to the death. 1 
When they had crossed the Pyrenees and were about 
to invade the Narbonnaise, they met with a furious 
resistance from Eudes, Duke of Aquitaine, who was 
determined to guard his privileges. 

If the Musulman invasion had been more rapid, 
it might have been successful by virtue of surprise ; 
but it was slow. The Narbonnaise was like a shield 
that warded off the first blows whilst the other 
provinces, warned of their danger, made preparations 
for the struggle. It would seem too that the invaders 
had certain failings : they allowed themselves to be 
captivated by the charms of the ladies of the South. 
One of their leaders, Othman, married Eudes’ 
daughter and revolted against his General, Abd-er- 
Rahman or Abderame. These weaknesses and this 
treason retarded the Arab advance. 

They crossed the Pyrenees in 719-720; in 724 
they were still waging war in the Narbonnaise; in 
725 they had pushed forward an outpost into 
Burgundy, but they had had to withdraw it, and in 
730 they were trying to get possession of Avignon 
and the Tarraconaise ; it was only in 732 that, having 
subdued the southern provinces, they were able to 
; Michelet* “ Hist, France,” 



advance towards the North, where they came into 
collision with the Francs under Charles, son of P£pin 
d’Heristal. It had taken them twelve years to come 
to the battle of Poitiers. This delay was a second 
cause of their repulse. 

It must also be borne in mind that the Arabs and 
the Berbers found themselves in a country new to 
them. Gaul was in those days an inhospitable 
region ; centuries of cultivation have since made it 
more sanitary, and it is difficult at the present day 
to picture to oneself the country intersected by 
broad and deep rivers, covered by impenetrable 
forests and marshes. The soil, sodden with water 
like a sponge, sank into quagmires where both horse 
and foot were caught. The cold and damp climate 
must have tried these men accustomed to the mildness 
of Oriental skies and to the dryness of Arabia and the 
Moghreb. Camping out in the mud and the rain, 
poorly protected by clothing made solely to keep off 
the heat of the sun, they were attacked by sickness ; 
the pasturage of marshy grass was fatal to their 
horses, and when, at Poitiers, they had to give 
battle to the Francs in a decisive action, they were 
undoubtedly in a condition of inferiority. This was 
the third cause of their failure. 

The Francs, hardy warriors, accustomed to a 
rough life in an unfriendly climate, in constant 
conflict with man and with nature, were not 
effeminate like the Byzantines, the Persians or the 
Visigoths. Indifferent to wounds or death, they were 
wild fighters resolved to conquer or to die. When 
they appeared at Poitiers, clad in mail covered with 
the skins of wild beasts which gave them a terrific 
aspect, and uttering savage cries, they terrified the 
Arabs, and that was the fourth cause of defeat. 

There was yet another: The invaders were 



divided ; the old quarrels of Arabia had followed them 
into Spain; the Musulman army included refugees 
from Medina, partisans of Ali, creatures of the 
Ommeyads, besides Berbers and Visigoths, all of 
them incapable of understanding one another. There 
were rivalries and even treachery : witness the 
defection of Othman. 

From all these causes, the Musulmans were beaten 
at Poitiers ; their discouragement was so great, their 
stupefaction so profound, that they did not even 
attempt a counter-attack, but fled by night, leaving 
their baggage in the hands of the Francs. Western 
civilization was saved. If Islam had triumphed then, 
France might have been to-day at the level of a 
Turkish province. 

In the course of a few years, the Musulmans lost 
all the places they had held in the south of France, 
and in 739 Charles Martel drove them finally out of 
the country. 

During these events, the Caliph Yezid II. had 
died after a reign of four years, and had been replaced 
by his brother, Hicham (724-743). 

Driven out of Gaul, the Musulmans of Spain 
penetrated into Sicily, where local dissensions gave 
them an easy success. The Musulman Empire had 
now attained its apogee : embracing Asia and the 
whole of the Mediterranean basin, it was greater than 
the empire of Alexander and almost as extensive as 
the Roman Empire; but, by the very reason of its 
size, it was fragile, for it ruled over people who were 
too dissimilar to coalesce in a stable empire, and the 
rapidity of the conquest had left no time for them 
to adapt themselves to the Islamic discipline. In 
addition to all this, the Arab was too uncultivated 
intellectually to have any influence over people who 
were his superiors in knowledge and in their tradi- 



tions; on the contrary, it was he who came under 
their influence, notably in Syria, in Egypt and in 

To administer this vast empire would have 
required men of rare energy and superior intelli- 
gence ; but as we have seen, Syria was fatal to the 

Walid II. (743), the successor to Hicham, was an 
effeminate of the lowest description. His religious 
indifference was so great that he did not even go to 
public prayers — a sacred duty for the Caliph — and 
openly made fun of the Koran. 1 The people of 
Damascus, although they were by no means austere 
believers, declined to recognize him, and proclaimed 
another Ommeyad, Yezid III. (748). Walid II. 
was killed in a skirmish. 

In the absence of any energetic sovereign capable 
of imposing his rule, the number of rival claimants 
increased. A grandson of the celebrated Merwan I., 
also called Merwan, sought to tempt fortune and 
marched upon Damascus ; he found on his arrival that 
Yezid III. had just died, and he had only to step 
into his place. 

But the grandsons of Abbas who claimed direct 
descent from the paternal uncle of the Prophet, and 
who had taken over the claims of the Alides, set on 
foot an agitation to enable them to seize power. The 
old struggle was resumed ; the governor of Khorassan, 
Abu-Maslem, raised the people in revolt, and, hoist- 
ing the black flag of the Abbassides on his palace at 
Merou, proclaimed as Caliph first Mohammed, great- 
grandson of Abbas, then, on his death, his son 

There were thus two Caliphs ; Merwan had 
Ibrahim assassinated, but Abdul-Abbas, Ibrahim’s 

1 Ebn«8hoimli. 



brother, took his place and marched against Merwan. 
The battle was going in favour of the Ommeyads, 
when an unforeseen incident reversed their fortunes. 
At the moment when the Abbasside army was giving 
way, Merwan dismounted from his horse to rest 
himself; his horse, startled, rushed into the melee, 
and the Ommeyad combatants, thinking that their 
leader had been killed, took flight. The Abbassides 
were triumphant ; Merwan took refuge in Egypt, 
where he was killed. 

The Abbassides took severe reprisals upon the 
vanquished. The Prophet’s descendants avenged 
themselves at last upon those whom they had always 
considered as usurpers; the relations and favourites 
of the former Caliph were massacred without mercy. 
A grandson of Hachem had one hand and one foot 
cut off, and in this mutilated state he was paraded 
through the towns of Syria mounted upon a donkey 
and accompanied by a herald who exhibited him as 
though he were a wild beast, crying : “ Behold 
Aban, son of Maowiah, he whom they called the 
most accomplished knight of the Ommeyads.” 
Hicham’s daughter, the princess Abda, was stabbed. 
At Damascus there were numerous executions; in 
one day alone, ninety Ommeyad leaders were 
beheaded. These bloodthirsty reprisals won for 
their author, Abdul- Abbas, the surname of El Saffah, 
the bloodthirsty. 

In such wise came to its end the dynasty of the 
Ommeyads. Islam owed them much; it was they 
who built up its power. Free from fanaticism, they 
had left some liberty to the vanquished peoples, and 
thus in Syria, in Egypt and in Spain, they had 
allowed Greco-Latin civilization to put forth new 
flowers. The Ommeyads, instructed and polished by 
the Syrians, were to some extent and possibly 


unconsciously, the heirs and successors of the 
Byzantine Emperors. As such, they deserve some 
recognition. With their successors, the Abbassides, 
there begins the reaction of narrow fanaticism against 
liberty of conscience; the reign of blind piety and 
persecution ; it is also the reaction of the Arab spirit, 
coarse and ignorant, against Greco-Latin culture. 

Islam may possibly have gained; civilization has 
certainly lost. 



Islam under the Abbassides— The Caliphate is transferred from 
Damascus to Bagdad, where it comes under Greco-Persian 
influence — Through the administration of the Barmecides, 
ministers of Persian origin, the Caliphs surround them- 
selves with foreign savants and men of letters, who give 
to their reign an incomparable splendour; but, in their 
desire to organize Musulman legislation, the Caliphs, 
under the inspiration of the Old Musulmans, fix the 
Islamic doctrine immutably and render all progress 
impossible — This was the cause and the beginning of the 
decadence of Mahometan nations — Spain breaks off from 
the Empire, setting an example of insubordination which 
is to find imitators later on. 

T HE revolution which carried the Abbassides 
to power was the result of a threefold 
reactionary movement : First, the reaction 
of the Old Musulmans, of the pious 
believers, faithfully attached to the traditions of 
Mahomet, who regarded the Ommeyads not only 
as usurpers — since they were not descended from the 
Prophet and had not accepted the principle of 
election for the nomination of the Caliph — but also 
as bad Musulmans, because their ancestors had 
persecuted Mahomet, and because they themselves, 
indifferent in matters of religion, had adopted 
Syrian manners and had allowed Greco-Latin 
civilization to develop. 

Then, there was the reaction of Eastern against 
Western Asia; the populations of Irak, roughly 
handled by the Ommeyads because they had 
defended the cause of the Alides, and held in a 




condition of servile dependence, had given their 
support to the Old Musulmans, not from any respect 
for tradition or from religious scruples, but from the 
spirit of revenge, to get rid of their oppressors. 

Finally, the reaction of the Arab or Bedouin 
spirit against Greco-Latin and Christian civilization 
which threatened to absorb Islam. 

There was also a question of egoistic interests, as 
to the seat of the Caliphate. The Old Musulmans 
intended that it should be brought back to the 
Hedjaz, either to Mecca or to Medina; the people 
of Eastern Asia were equally determined to uphold 
the claims of their own cities. The two parties 
came to an understanding at first to fight the 
Ommeyads, and to avenge themselves upon Syria 
and the Syrians whom they overwhelmed with 
reprisals and whose prosperity they did their best to 
ruin. Similarly, they were of one mind in deciding 
that Damascus should no longer be the seat of the 
Caliphate; but, when it came to choosing the new 
capital of Islam, their agreement came to an end. 

Abdul- Abbas (750-754), who was not particu- 
larly anxious to go either to Mecca or to Medina, set 
up his court first at Anbar. On his death, his 
brother, Almansur (754-775), who succeeded him, 
chose Kufa as his residence ; but as this town 
contained too many zealous partisans of the Alides, 
he decided to found a new city : Bagdad, on the 
banks of the Tigris, near the former Seleucia, in the 
middle of Eastern Asia. 

This choice aroused discontent among the 
Syrians, the Ommeyads, and even among the Old 
Musulmans of the Hedjaz ; and since all these 
parties, though divided by burning rivalries, were 
strongly represented in Spain and in the Moghreb, 
they stirred up risings in those countries. Spain 



proclaimed a Caliph of her own choice, naturally an 
Ommeyad (755). Without going to this length, 
the Moghreb nevertheless isolated itself, and the two 
provinces lived apart from the rest of the Empire. 1 

It was ordained as the destiny of the Arabs that 
they should undergo foreign influence. With no 
intellectual culture of their own, no artistic, literary 
or scientific past, devoid of creative genius, they 
were obliged in all that related to the domain of the 
mind to accept the help of the foreigner. The 
Ommeyads had come under Syrian, that is to say, 
Greco-Latin influence; the Abbassides came under 
Persian or rather Greco-Persian influence ; for 
Hellenic thought, more or less distorted, had 
penetrated everywhere in the ancient world. 

The administrative methods of the Ommeyads 
were copied from those of the Byzantines; the 
government of the Abbassides was inspired by 
Persian methods. The provincial governors remind 
us of the former Satraps. Endowed with the most 
extensive powers, they administered the country, 
and collected the taxes, by means of which they 
raised and maintained armies, paid the officials, 
provided for the construction and maintenance of 
public buildings, and sent any surplus there might be 
to the Caliph. 

This system of administration had one advantage : 
it enabled each province to be given the sort of 
government best suited to its necessities and its 
customs; but it had also a corresponding disad- 
vantage : inasmuch as it left too much independence 
to populations insufficiently penetrated by the 
Musulman ideal, and gave too much authority to 
the Governors. The latter enriched themselves by 
scandalous exactions, and surrounded themselves 

1 Dozy* “ Hist*, des Musulmans 



with devoted followers ; then, when they felt them- 
selves sufficiently strong, they rebelled against the 
central power . 1 This is what had already happened 
in Khorassan and in Spain ; it was to take place later 
in almost all parts of the Empire. 

Almansur tried to remedy this defect by 
frequent changes of the Governors, and by keeping 
the representatives of the great families out of these 
appointments : but it was a vain precaution — the 
nobodies he substituted for them committed worse 
exactions still, and were no more loyal. 

Bagdad was the case of Damascus over again : 
the Arabs adopted the manners of the country which 
were no better than those of the Syrians and 
Byzantines. Almansur was surrounded by a pomp 
copied from that of the Sassanian kings. The 
revenues of the Empire were estimated at thirty 
millions sterling, which permitted him to display a 
luxury hitherto unheard of and which was fatal 
to the Arab character. Surrounded by a brilliant 
court, dwelling in a wonderful palace, the Caliph 
became an Asiatic potentate, who only appeared in 
public on rare occasions, in the midst of an impressive 
pomp that one finds reflected in the “ Thousand and 
One Nights.” 

This desire to shine produced at the same time 
some fortunate results. Wishing, like the Persian 
sovereigns, to surround himself with all that could 
contribute to heighten the splendour of power, 
Almansur showed favour to men of learning and 
writers and, as there were none of these among the 
Arabs, his liberality went necessarily to foreigners. 
There were numerous men of letters in Persia. 
Certain Christian schismatics and philosophers, 

1 Quatremere, M&m. hist;, mr la dynastie des Khalifes 



exiled from the Platonic school of Athens in 
consequence of the persecutions of Justinian, had 
introduced into the East the seeds of Western 
civilization. As in Syria, these men of letters were 
able to continue their labours from which the Arabs 
were to benefit at a later date. 

Almansur caused translations to be made by 
Syrian and Persian scribes of the principal Greek 
authors : Aristotle, Hippocrates, Galen, Dioscorides, 
Archimedes, and Ptolemy ; it was these translations, 
more or less accurate, that initiated the Arabs into 
the scientific discoveries of antiquity . 1 As in Syria, 
and for the same reasons, there was a reawakening 
of civilization behind a Musulman front, but this 
blossoming owed nothing to Arab genius; all its 
sap and all its colour proceeded from Hellenic 
thought, modified and sometimes distorted by 
Asiatic influences. 

Moreover, it was not so much the Caliphs them- 
selves who favoured art and letters as their ministers, 
the Barmecides, of Persian origin, who for a century 
exercised a preponderating influence at the court of 
the Abbassides. It was these highly educated and 
widely cultivated men who supplemented the intel- 
lectual deficiencies of the Caliphs; who educated 
them and filled their court with men of learning and 
of letters. It was they, too, who took in hand the 
adornment of the city and who designed and carried 
out those works of public utility that the Arab 
authors attribute to the Abbassides. The sole 
authors of the Musulman splendour of this period 
were the Barmecides, that is to say, Persians, so 
little Islamized that their enemies accused them of 
remaining pagans. 

1 Yaooub-Artin Pasha, “ L’instruction publique en Egypte,” 
pp. 11 and 13. 



Mohammed al Mohadi (785) and his son, A1 
Hadi (786), who succeeded Almansur, followed his 
example ; or, to put it more correctly, the Barmecides 
kept them in the right way, for it was they who in 
reality wielded power; but the pomp and opulence 
of the earlier Abbasside Caliphs were surpassed by 
Haroun-al-Raschid (786-809) who has remained in 
history as the most complete type of Oriental 
sovereign. 1 Sometimes incredibly generous, ready 
to pardon any offender and to give lavishly, picking 
up beggars in the street to raise them to high 
dignities, protecting the widow and orphan, helping 
the unfortunate, punishing crime like a knight 
errant ; and then, cruel beyond belief, when the old 
Arab instincts came through the thin varnish of a 
borrowed civilization, witness the murder and exile 
of the Barmecides who had been the builders of 
Abbasside prosperity. At one time all smiling 
good-nature, and then odiously proud ; brave to fool- 
hardiness, and then degrading himself in the lowest 
orgies ; vindictive and magnanimous, crafty and 
loyal ; always actuated by excess of feeling : in 
short, all the qualities and all the defects of the 
Bedouin appeared in him in the most startling 
way, still further enhanced by the influence of Asia. 

With the exception of two expeditions, against 
the Empress Irene of Constantinople (790) and 
against her successor, Nicephorus (802), both success- 
ful, and entailing on the vanquished the payment of 
a tribute of sixty thousand dinars, 3 the reign of 
Haroun-al-Raschid was quiet and devoted entirely 
to administrative reform. It was an immense task. 
A complete organization had to be created, as much 
from the financial as from the legislative point of 

1 Qua-creniere, op. eit. 

z Sch] amberger 5 ‘ * L’ Epopee Byzantine . } 9 


view. It was necessary to centralize the payment of 
public expenses and the collection of the State 
revenue. This was made up of the produce of the 
taxes : djezieh, or poll tax on infidels living in a 
Musulman country; kharadj, land tax paid by non- 
Musulmans ; tithe levied on Musulmans ; excise 
duties on the exploitation of mines ; estates reverting 
to the State for want of heirs; and the tribute 
imposed on foreign nations. 

Acting on the wise counsels of the Barmecides, 
Haroun-al-Raschid employed the immense revenues 
of the Empire in useful ways. High schools and 
libraries were founded for the diffusion of scientific 
knowledge borrowed from the works of Greek 
antiquity. The Arab language was propagated in 
all parts of Asia and finally dethroned the former 
dialects . 1 

In order to comply with the exigencies of a new 
nomenclature, it had to be enriched by foreign words 
taken from Greek and Aramaic. Greek, Syrian, 
Persian and Indian savants, attracted by the liber- 
ality of the Caliph, gave instruction to the Arabs. 
Thanks to their efforts, mathematics, astronomy and 
astrology, medicine, chemistry and alchemy were 
held in honour and made some progress. The 
Arabs, still ignorant, were slowly emerging from 
their barbarism by drawing from the treasury of 
Greco-Latin labours the knowledge they lacked. 
They were diligent pupils and remarkable compilers ; 
and if, for want of creative spirit, they may have 
added nothing to the discoveries of antiquity, they 
did certainly help to spread them abroad. For this 
reason the Abbassides, and above all their ministers, 
the Barmecides, deserve to figure among the 
benefactors of humanity. 

1 Sedillot, “Hist, des Arabes,” 



It was also necessary to establish a Musulman 
legislation. Up to that time, the Caliphs or their 
representatives were dispensing justice by drawing 
upon the Koran and tradition. This resulted in the 
formulation of judgments and interpretations often 
contradictory ; and the necessity soon became urgent 
to fix a doctrine of jurisprudence, to draw up a code 
which whilst giving some direction to the judges 
should also afford some guarantee of justice to the 
contending parties. 

This was a work of capital importance, and one 
that has had considerable influence upon the 
destinies of the Empire since by fixing the Islamic 
doctrine immutably, it has rendered all progress 
impossible, and has had a paralysing effect upon the 
Musulman community. It will be dealt with in a 
special chapter; but we may here remark with 
astonishment that this work, undertaken in a liberal 
spirit by the Abbassides should have led to results 
so completely opposed to the ideas which had 
inspired it ; and that, drawn up as it was by the order 
of sovereigns so tolerant that many of them were 
accused of irreligion, this code should have become 
the instrument of the most bigoted fanaticism. 

The great mistake of the reign of Haroun-al- 
Raschid, a gross fault that was fatal to the future of 
the Abbassides and even to that of the Empire, was 
the disgrace of the Barmecides. These Persian 
ministers, men of eminent intellectual capacity and 
of a genius that enabled them to face the vastest 
enterprises, had given enlightened guidance to the 
Musulman Empire. They were the builders of the 
prosperity of the Abbassides and of Musulman 
grandeur. With their disappearance, the Arab 

1 Seignette, “ Introduction a la trad, de Khalil.” 


sovereigns, left to themselves, were quite unable to 
direct this immense concourse of dissimilar nations, 
and the Empire fell into decay. It affords one more 
proof of the incapacity of the Arabs for government 
and especially for administration. 

The successor to Haroun-al-Raschid was his son, 
Amin, an incapable and effeminate man, who after 
some years of fruitless reign, had to hand over power 
to his brother A1 Mamun (813-833). 

A1 Mamun, who cared less about pomp but was 
a more cultivated man than his father, exercised a 
most fortunate influence. Surrounded by the elite 
of Greek, Syrian, Persian, Copt and Chaldean 
savants, he collected at great expense the works of 
the school of Alexandria, and had them translated 
into Arabic and distributed. He multiplied the 
existing establishments for instruction and even 
founded a school for girls, at which the professors 
were women from Athens and Constantinople. 
Educated by foreign savants in the cult of Greek 
literature, indifferent to religious ordinances, he 
displayed a very liberal spirit towards non-Musul- 
mans. He entrusted the greater part of the work 
of government to Greeks and Persians. His 
tolerance even caused him to be accused of ir- 
religion, especially when he refused to rage against 
a new sect, Zendekism, that had arisen in Khorassan 
by contact with Mazdeism. 1 His love of knowledge 
was so great that it gave rise to the legend that he 
declared war upon the Emperor of Constantinople 
because the latter had refused to send him a certain 
celebrated mathematician of the name of Leon. 
Arab authors were given to exaggeration, and it is 
probable there were other causes for this war, 
notably the extreme reluctance of the Greeks to 

1 Sylvestre de Sacy, Expose de la relig. des Druses.” 



pay the annual tribute formerly imposed by 
Ilaroun-al-Rasehid . 

From this time (829), hostilities were resumed 
between the Greeks and Arabs and continued with 
varying- fortunes until 842, under the reign of 
Motassem, who succeeded A1 Mamun. 

A1 Motassem followed the example of his 
predecessors ; like them, he encouraged science and 
literature; and like them he was not disposed to 
favour fanaticism. The struggle of the Old Musul- 
mans against the influence of foreign civilizations, 
born under the first Ommeyad Caliphs, continued 
more fiercely than ever. 

From the remotest times, there had always been 
two parties in Islam : the fanatical party, bound to a 
narrow interpretation of the Koran and to a rigorous 
submission to its dogmas, and the party of those who 
sought to enable the Musulman community to benefit 
by the progress realized by other nations — Greeks, 
Syrians, Persians, etc. 

In reality, the Old Musulmans were originally 
the men of Medina, that is to say, the representatives 
of the Mahometan reaction against the old pagan Arab 
traditions upheld by the men of Mecca. But when 
the Caliphate was transferred to Damascus by the 
Ommeyads, and later to Bagdad by the Abbassides, 
Medinans and Meccans joined forces to resist Greco- 
Syrian and Greco-Persian influence. They repre- 
sented, therefore, the Arab, the Bedouin spirit 
moulded by Islam. It was these two conflicting 
tendencies that brought into being so many sects all 
mutually unyieldingly antagonistic. 1 

Under Motassem, one of these sects, drawing 
its inspiration from Greek philosophic thought, 
assumed a development peculiar to itself, that of the 

1 Hammer, “ Hist, des Assassins. Trad, Hellert and Lanonrais. ,, 



Motazelites, who upheld the doctrine of free will. 
This sect was furiously opposed by the religious 
party. Motassem protected the Motazelites ; if their 
principles had prevailed, the Musulman world would 
have been able to develop along the lines of progress 
and civilization ; but the fanaticism of the Old 
Musulmans carried the day, and the Caliph was 
unable to lead his liberal ideas to victory . 1 

His successor, Wathiq (842-846), renewed these 
efforts in favour of the Motazelites and of the liberty 
of conscience; but he too failed. He had other 
anxieties ; the Greeks wishing to free themselves from 
the obligation of paying tribute, resumed hostilities. 
The Emperor Basil was successful in recovering 
possession of the towns in Cilicia lost by his pre- 

This was the beginning of the fall of the Abbas- 
sides, and, it may be said, of the conquering Arab. 

From this date, troubles followed closely upon one 
another. Caliphs incapable and without authority 
led a useless existence. Religious schisms, palace 
intrigues, popular risings, revolts of the conquered 
provinces, the competition of rival pretenders to the 
supreme power, insubordination in the army and the 
ambition of military leaders ruined the prosperity of 
the Musulman community. The immense Arab 
Empire, too hastily founded, by a people devoid of 
intellectual culture and especially of political and 
administrative capacity, crumbled and sank in the 
throes of anarchy. 

1 Sylyestre de Sacy, op. oit. 



Islam under the last Abbassides — The Musulman Empire on 
the road to ruin — The Arab conquerors, drowned in the 
midst of subject peoples and incapable of governing them, 
lose their war-like qualities by contact with them — Good- 
for-nothing Caliphs, reduced to the r&le of rois faineants, 
are obliged in self-defence to have recourse to foreign 
mercenaries, who soon become their masters — Provinces 
in obedience to nationalist sentiment break away from 
the Empire — The last Abbasside Caliphs retain possession 
of Bagdad only — Their dynasty dies out in ignominy. 

F ROM the death of Wathiq (846), the Musulman 
Empire of the East moves forward to its fall. 
The general causes of this may be noted. 
The Arab conquerors, swamped in a flood of 
subject nations, submitted to their influence. This 
was the more difficult to avoid as in imposing their 
religion on the conquered they thereby raised them 
to their own level in regard to status. Every 
foreigner on conversion became the equal of the 
conqueror, enjoying the same rights and the same 
privileges. But the greater part of the subject 
peoples, the Syrians, Egyptians, Greeks, and 
Persians, were more cultivated, better educated, more 
civilized, and more refined than the Arabs, and were 
alone capable of assuming the different functions of 
administration. They alone possessed the intellec- 
tual culture, the experience and the knowledge 
necessary for the organization of conquered provinces. 
They thus became the real masters, and it was they 

145 E 


who practically controlled the power. At Damascus, 
the Syrians had governed in the name of the 
Ommeyads; at Bagdad, the Barmecide ministers, 
of Persian origin, ruled on behalf of the Abbas- 

As the new converts had kept their mentality 
and their customs, and as they were in far greater 
numbers, they imposed them on the Arabs to such an 
extent that, under the Musulman label, the local 
manners survived ; that is to say Greco-Persian 
manners, the manners of a people already corrupted 
by the vices of decadence. 

In this atmosphere of hyper-refined civilization, 
the conquerors lost their warlike qualities. As they 
were devoid of the most elementary intellectual 
culture, they could not exercise any sort of directive 
influence on a population superior to them; they 
were not masters but pupils ; they learned and they 
copied; and naturally, by a very human tendency, 
they assimilated especially the vices; they became 
effeminate and corrupted . 1 

By their military success, by their power and 
their wealth, the Abbasside Caliphs had inspired the 
neighbouring nations with a fear that secured them 
a long period of peace. This repose was fatal to 
them. The Bedouins, created for fighting and a 
rough life, lost their boldness and vigour. The 
prodigious wealth resulting from the tribute imposed 
upon conquered nations and from the revenues 
of the conquered provinces accomplished their 

Finally, the abuse of a power almost without 
limits had weakened the Caliphs. Surrounded by a 
luxury till then unheard of, their heads turned by the 

1 “ Hist, des Calif es/’ 



base flattery of courtiers ; disposing, at their pleasure, 
of human lives, they became despots only comparable 
to the Roman Emperors of the fall. The last 
Abbassides were notorious for their cruelty, their 
vices, their irresponsibility, and their incapacity. In 
the defects of these men, degraded by the abuse of 
pleasure, without character and without energy, we 
recognize the signs of the degeneration of a race 
played-out, worn out too soon by too abrupt a change 
in its conditions of existence, and corrupted by 
contact with too advanced civilizations. In less than 
three centuries the Arabs fell to the level of the 
Byzantines and the Persians. 

The years that followed the death of Wathiq 
were one long crisis of anarchy. Popular risings 
and intrigues in the palace rendered the power 
of the Caliphs precarious; and they strained every 
nerve to get the utmost of enjoyment out of their 
ephemeral royalty by giving themselves up to 
the vilest debauchery. Their court hastened to 
enrich themselves by the most scandalous exactions. 
The intellectuals adopted the vain subleties of 
Byzantinism; everything became a matter for cavil, 
science, philosophy, and especially religion. 

The Musulman doctrine was complicated by all 
the hypotheses of the Greek philosophers and by 
every superstition of the vanquished peoples. It was 
a chaos of beliefs ; every day some new sect appeared 
only to add to the existing confusion. The one 
would claim that the universe is infinite, which is a 
serious heresy ; another would demand mathematical 
proofs before it would believe; yet another, seeing 
that it was impossible to discover truth among so 
many religious doctrines that contradicted one 
another, preached agnosticism; certain rhetoricians 


admitted the existence of God and the mission of 
the Prophet, but rejected the other dogmas ; others 
more circumspect denied the mission of the 
Prophet. 1 

Thus there was no religious unity, any more than 
political unity. Each province, having preserved its 
customs, considered itself as an isolated State ; certain 
of them showed a tendency to break away from the 
Empire. Since 750, Spain, and later the Moghreb, 
had set the example of this emancipation, and as their 
revolt had remained unpunished, owing to the weak- 
ness of the later Abbassides, other provinces, notably 
Khorassan, had followed their lead. The Musulman 
Empire was decomposing with the same rapidity as 
it had been constituted. 

A1 Moutawakil (846-861), Wathiq’s successor, 
begins the series of incapable sovereigns. He was a 
sickly, perverted, and unbalanced creature, who 
displayed the worst aberrations. He surrounded 
himself with fierce wild beasts, to whom his favourites 
had to pay court. An eccentric and a monomaniac, 
in constant fear of assassination, he saw enemies 
everywhere seeking to destroy him. Haunted by 
mad hallucinations, he committed abominable crimes : 
one day he caused one of his viziers to be burnt alive ; 
on another, he summoned the officers of the palace to 
a banquet and had them all massacred. 3 Neverthe- 
less, he was a man of refinement and a dilettante, 
loving beautiful verses and eloquent discourses. He 
was the Nero of Islam. His son, A1 Moutanser, 
assassinated him and seized power (861), but he died 
soon afterwards, worn out by debauchery (862). A 
grandson of Caliph A1 Motassem succeeded him, 
borne to power by the Turkish guard. From this 

1 gylyestre de Saey, “ Expose de la relig. dea Druses.” 

3 Sedillot, “ Hist des Arabes.” 



date the order of succession was no longer observed ; 
henceforth it was the mercenaries of the palace who 
made and unmade the Caliphs. 

Since 842, under the reign of A1 Motassem, as 
the Arabs, grown wealthy and weak, showed some 
reluctance to expose their lives, it had been found 
necessary to enrol prisoners of war; those from 
Turkestan having shown themselves the best soldiers, 
it was from them that the palace guards were selected. 
These mercenaries, at first the instruments of domina- 
tion in the hands of the monarch, soon imposed their 
own will ; it was a repetition of what had happened in 
Rome at the time of the fall. 1 

The foreign troops, subjected to a rough discipline 
during the Caliphate of Wathiq, set themselves free 
on his death. It was they who proclaimed A1 
Moutawakil ; then, finding him too mean, they helped 
his son, A1 Mustanser, to get rid of him. Finally, 
they compelled the latter to exclude his brothers from 
the succession and to nominate A1 Moustain Billah 
as his successor. 

From that time onward the Caliphs pass like 
puppets — the Turkish troops, paid by a pretender, 
raise him to power, then, having got their 
wages, they depose him to earn the bribes of the 
next one. 

A1 Moustain reigned three years (862-866), and 
was replaced by his brother, A1 Moutazz (866-869). 
The latter, soon deposed, was succeeded by a son 
of Wathiq, A1 Mouthadi Billah (869-870). The 
mercenaries killed him because he wanted to bring 
them under some sort of discipline. A second 
brother of A1 Moustain, A1 Moutamid, was raised to 
power (870-892). He tried to get the better of the 

1 Quatremere, li Mem. hist, sur la dynastie des Khali fes 


general anarchy, but the task was quite beyond his 

The provinces too hastily conquered formed a 
whole without unity. The subject populations 
accepting Islam and thereby enjoying the same rights 
as the conqueror, absorbed the Arab element. 1 The 
Arabs, on the other hand, incapable of exerting any 
directive control, submitted to the influence of 
foreign manners and customs. Regional nationalism 
asserted itself, often encouraged by ambitious 
governors who dreamed of emancipation ; whilst 
another sentiment urged them to revolt — the desire 
to escape payment of the tribute. 

Following Spain, Khorassan had broken with the 
central power; and Tabarestan followed its example 
in 864. In 870, a certain Yakoub-es-Soffar — Yakoub 
the coppersmith, so-called because his father had been 
of that trade — had raised the standard of revolt in 
Sedjestan, and had then taken possession of Khorassan 
and Tabarestan, thus carving out for himself a small 
independent kingdom of which the principal towns 
were Meru and Nichabour. He was even aiming at 
the Caliphate. To get * rid of him, A1 Moutamid 
recognized his sovereignty over the provinces he was 
holding (877), an act of weakness that served to 
encourage other ambitious spirits. 

Ismael-ibn-Saman, governor of Khowaresm and 
of Mawarannahar, revolted. An adventurer took 
possession of Bassorah by the aid of negro troops 
from Zanzibar, and held out there until 882. 
Ahmed-ben-Thoulou, a freed Turk, to whom the 
government of Egypt and Syria had been entrusted, 
refused to pay the tax (877), and declared himself 
independent. The Empire was falling into liquida- 

1 Dozy, Hist, des Musiilmans d’Espagne,” 



tion ; there was no energetic sovereign to re-establish 
oi'der. The Caliphs passed without leaving any trace 
but the memory of their debauchery and incapacity : 
A1 Mouthadhid (892-902), A1 Mouktafi (902-908), A1 
Mouktadir (908-932), A1 Qahir (932-934), A1 Radhi 

Jezireh separated itself from the Empire and 
formed a small State of which Mosul was the capital. 
The Turkish troops, now all powerful, pursued their 
intrigues. A1 Qahir was imprisoned by the palace 
guards, who put out his eyes and then threw him into 
the street, where he was reduced to begging his bread. 

A1 Radhi, fearing the dangers of power, handed 
over all authority to an Emir-el-Omra, Emir of 
Emirs, and lived as a roi faineant . This was a fresh 
cause of trouble, for the ambitious intrigued for the 
Emirate. 1 The head of the Turkish troops led a 
revolt, besieged the Caliph in his palace and compelled 
him to recognize him as Emir (940). From this 
time onward, it was the Emirs who governed — like 
the mayors of the palace — the Caliph had no longer 
any authority. 

Under the reign of A1 Mouttaki (940-944), who 
succeeded A1 Radhi, Armenia, Georgia, and the 
small provinces on the borders of the Caspian Sea 
broke away from the Empire. The districts around 
Bagdad did the same, so that there remained nothing 
for the Caliphs beyond the city itself. The sovereign 
had become a laughing-stock in the hands of the 
Emir-el-Omra, or rather of the Turkish troops who 
set up one of their ( officers as Emir. One of the 
latter condemned A1 Mouttaki to death, accusing 
him of having intrigued against him (944), and 
proclaimed in his place A1 Moustakfi. 

1 Quatremere, op. cat* 


The citizens of Bagdad, exasperated at being 
governed by Turkish mercenaries who squeezed them, 
revolted, and summoned to their aid the Bouids, who 
had carved out for themselves a small State out of 
the former Persian Empire. The Bouids drove the 
Turks, out of Bagdad, and one of them, Moez-ed- 
Doulat, proclaimed himself Emir-el-Omra (945) and 
nominated A1 Mouti, a member of his family, as 
Caliph (945-974). 

More than ever, it was the Emir who really 
governed ; the nominal Caliphs pass like shadows : A1 
Tai (974-991), A1 Qadir Billah (991-1031), A1 Qaim 
Bi-Amr-Illah (1031-1075). Some of them, to fill up 
their idle time, devoted themselves to letters, others 
to debauchery. 

Bagdad, ruined by palace intrigues and popular 
outbreaks, lost its influence and prosperity ; deprived 
of its commerce and of the provincial revenues, it was 
a head without a body. 1 But life revived elsewhere : 
in Egypt, in Syria, in Persia, and in India, where 
representatives of the great local families wielded the 

The last Abbassides succeeded each other through 
the intrigues of the Emirs ; A1 Mouqtadi (1075-1094), 
A1 Moustadhir (1094-1118), A1 Moustarshid (1118- 
1135), A1 Baschid (1135-1136), A1 Mouqtafi (1136- 
1160), A1 Moustanji (1160-1170), A1 Mousthadi 
(1170-1180), A1 Nasir (1180-1225), A1 Dahir (1225- 
1226), A1 Moustansir (1226-1243), A1 Moustasim 
(1243-1258). The last was strangled by the orders of 
Houlagan, when this Mogul sovereign took possession 
of Bagdad. 

The Abbasside dynasty came to an end in 
ignominy. Incapable of either government or 

1 Weir, il Hist, dee Calif es*” 



administration, devoid of all political intelligence, 
preoccupied by the sole pursuit of pleasure, the Arab 
sovereigns were only able to play their part by 
allowing themselves to be guided by foreigners. AH 
of them, even the most brilliant, were but puppets in 
the hands of Syrian or Persian ministers who pulled 
the strings. As soon as this help ceased, their power 

After all, the splendour of the rule of the 
Ommeyads and of the earlier Abbasside Caliphs was 
nothing but the reflection of Greco-Syrian and 
Greco-Persian civilization. The Arabs could not 
hinder the ultimate expansion of this civilization, but 
they did not contribute to its brilliancy. It was the 
Syrians, the Greeks, and the Persians, Islamized by 
force, who, in spite of the barbarism of the conqueror, 
produced the effort that has been wrongly ascribed to 
the Arabs ; and this effort was paralysed, and then 
completely blocked, when Musulman doctrine, fixed 
by the doctors of the faith and made absolutely 
immutable, stopped all innovation, all progress, all 

It was in the second century of the Hegira that 
this deadly work was accomplished ; and it is from 
that date that the decadence of the Empire of the 
Caliphs began. Insensible at first, because of the 
residual culture of the conquered, who in spite of 
their forcible conversion to Islam, had kept their 
mentality and their intellectual baggage, it became 
more accentuated in the succeeding generations, 
in proportion as they, brought up in the narrow 
prison of Musulman dogma, lost their national 

Islam was not a torch, as has been claimed, but 
an extinguisher. Conceived in a barbarous brain 



for the use of a barbarous people, it was — and 
it remains — incapable of adapting itself to civiliza- 
tion. Wherever it has dominated, it has broken the 
impulse towards progress and checked the evolution 
of society. 


Causes of the dismemberment of the Musulman Empire — The 
chief is the inability of the Arabs to govern — The history 
of the Caliphs in Spain is identical with that of the 
Caliphs at Damascus and at Bagdad : the same causes of 
ephemeral grandeur, the same causes of decay — There was 
no Arab civilization in Spain, but merely a revival of 
Latin civilization — This was developed behind a Musulman 
facade, and in spite of the Musulmans — The monuments 
attributed to the Arabs are the work of Spanish architects. 

T HE principal cause of the collapse of the 
power of the Arabs was their inability to 
administer their conquests. The secret of 
the success of the Greek and Roman 
conquerors lay in the fact that they possessed in 
their own countries a perfectly organized system of 
administration, which they had only to apply to the 
subject peoples with certain modifications to adapt 
it to their manners and customs. They thus brought 
to the vanquished a regime of order, bringing with it 
a prosperity that caused the latter to forget the 
brutalities of conquest. 

The Arabs were not in possession of any such 
organization, they had not even a State; for the 
nomad tribes lived in freedom, obeying no authority, 
no directing power, no administration ; theirs was, in 
fact, a regime of anarchy. 

When the successors of Mahomet realized their 
conquests, they were obliged, in the absence of any 
Arab organization, to adopt that which they found in 
existence in the conquered provinces ; and they could 



only carry it on by the help of the people they 
had conquered. Their political inferiority was thus 
evident from the first day and inevitably diminished 
their prestige. Finally, the Musulman religion, 
conceived as it was for the use of a collectivity of 
nomads, was with difficulty adapted to the manners 
and customs of sedentary nations whose mentality 
and necessities were quite different. Thus, as was 
inevitable, it was not long before there were colli- 
sions of sentiment and wounded feelings on both 
sides. The various peoples, stupefied at first by the 
impetuosity of the Arab onrush, soon recovered 
their self-possession and tried to regain their inde- 

But the Arabs, intoxicated by their success, 
took reprisals with such “frightfulness” that the 
conquered peoples resigned themselves in terror to 
their servitude. The Arabs, then believing that they 
were safe from any further danger, tasted the joy of 
living. In contact with the old Greco-Syrian and 
Greco-Persian civilizations they became softened and 
lost their warlike qualities, so utterly that the Caliphs 
had to enrol foreign troops to ensure the defence of 
the Empire. 

As soon as the subject nations became aware of 
this enfeeblement, they took up once more their 
projects of independence. Several causes urged them 
to this course : 

1. Regional nationalism, naturally exasperated 
by the farce of foreign domination, and the desire of 
the people to be governed by men of their own 
language and mentality. 

2. The utter incapacity of the governing Arabs, 
an incapacity which prevented them from improving 
the administration of the conquered provinces and 


compelled them to wink at the exactions of foreign 

8. The desire to get out of paying the tribute. 
In the subject provinces, every individual paid 
taxes, raised in the case of non-Musulmans, and 
reduced for the converted. These taxes were largely 
increased by the corruption of the collectors. The 
money squeezed out of the vanquished served to 
enrich the Arab governors; the surplus went to 
Damascus or Bagdad to maintain the luxury of the 
Caliphs, so that the Musulman domination appeared 
as an exploitation of the conquered nations for the 
benefit of the Arabs. 

4. The dissensions which divided the conquerors. 
The Alides intrigued in Persia, the Ommeyads in 
Syria, in Spain, and in the Moghreb, the Old 
Musulmans in Irak. All these rivals, eager to injure 
one another, sought to recruit partisans among 
the non- Arabs, and this propaganda could only 
serve to impair unity and to increase the spirit of 
insubordination . 

5. The ambition of the governors. As part of 
the bad organization of the Arab Empire, the 
provincial governors were allowed a measure of 
independence that made them the equals of the 
Caliph in their own province. They collected the 
taxes without any control ; they recruited the troops 
necessary for their defence; this liberty led the 
ambitious by imperceptible degrees to revolt against 
the central power. 

6. The exasperating rigour of the fanatics. In 
Islam there have always been rigid defenders of the 
Koranic dogma; these fanatics triumphed in the 
second century, when they obtained the immutable 
fixation of their doctrine. From that time onward 



they busied themselves in imposing their ideas and 
behaved with so little moderation that they became 

These diverse causes were not always in operation 
at the same time; according to circumstances and 
places, it was now one and now another that was in 
the ascendant. In one province it would be the spirit 
of nationalism that led to revolt ; in another it would 
be the desire to avoid the payment of taxes ; or again, 
it might be rivalries among the Arabs ; or perhaps 
the ambition of a governor or of some military leader ; 
but in every case, one of these causes was found to be 
at the root of the movement for emancipation. 

Thus in Spain, schism was provoked by hostility 
to the Abbassides. The superior officers of the army, 
Arab or Berber, were the proteges of the Ommeyads ; 
so that on the coming of the Abbassides, anxiety 
to preserve their privileges led them to revolt. Two 
of these leaders, Somail and Yusuf, exercised power 
in the absence of a sovereign. The latter was not 
long in presenting himself. 

An Ommeyad, Abd-er-Rahman, a descendant of 
the Caliph ITashem who, after incredible adventures, 
had escaped the massacres ordered by Abul-Abbas- 
es-Saffa and had taken refuge in Africa, crossed over 
to Spain. 1 Received with enthusiasm by the par- 
tisans of the Ommeyads, he had himself proclaimed 
Caliph, after getting rid of Yusuf and Somail who 
had attempted to oppose his intentions (756). 

This was the beginning of the Caliphate in Spain, 
of which the history was very much the same as that 
of the Caliphates of Damascus and Bagdad. There 
were the same causes of grandeur and the same 
reasons for decay. As in Syria and in Mesopotamia, 

1 Dozy, op* cit. p. 299, t, i. 



the Arabs found in Spain an advanced civilization, a 
reflection of that of Rome ; and being quite without 
culture themselves, they fell under the influence of 
the people of the country, imitated their customs, and 
adopted their vicious habits. Ignorant of the arts 
of administration and government, they surrounded 
themselves with Syrians, Berbers, and Spaniards, 
converts to Islam, who exercised authority on their 
behalf. These new Musulmans, brought up in 
Latin traditions, revived, in spite of their barbarous 
conquerors, the fire of Latin genius. In contact with 
a refined society, the Arabs became corrupted, lost 
their warlike qualities, and were no longer in a 
position to maintain order. Power slipped from their 
hands. The history of Cordova is a repetition of that 
of Damascus and Bagdad, and furnishes fresh proof of 
the incapacity of the Arabs for government. 

Abd-er-Rahman I. (756-787) had the qualities of 
the Ommeyads, and their defects : bravery, pride, 
generosity, perfidy, cold-blooded cruelty, and sensu- 
ality. His court rivalled that of Bagdad 1 in its pomp. 
He was in addition a man of refinement, with literary 
pretensions. After having caused one of his old 
friends to be assassinated, he would go and dream in 
his gardens at Cordova ; and there, under the shade of 
the palms and orange trees, he would compose 
sentimental poems like the following : 

‘ ‘ Beautiful palm, thou art, like myself, a stranger 
in these parts ; but the winds brush thy fronds with 
their soft caress ; thy roots find a hospitable soil and 
thy leafy crown expands in a pure air. Ah ! thou 
would ’st weep, even as I weep, could’st thou feel the 
troubles that prey upon me ! Thou hast no fear of 

1 De Maries, u Hist f de la conqiiete cj© l’Espagne par lm 


fate, whilst I am exposed to its buffets. When a 
cruel destiny and the vengeance of the Abbasside 
drove me into exile from the country of my birth, 
many times did I shed tears under the shade of palms 
watered by the Euphrates ; but alas ! the trees and 
the river have forgotten me, and thou, beautiful palm, 
thou dost not lament justice ! 

Abd-er-Rahman had a difficult beginning : the 
chiefs, Arab and Berber, who had cut themselves 
adrift from the Empire in order to be free, entered 
into league against him. Some he bought over, 
others he had killed, and in the end he remained 
undisputed master. At his death, he left to his son, 
Hashem I. (787-795), a situation practically clear of 

The new Caliph bore little resemblance to his 
father. Bigoted to excess, he was completely in the 
hands of religious personages, notably of the great 
Medinan doctor, Malik, one of the four orthodox 
interpreters of the Koran. These fanatical doctrin- 
aires sought to impose their ideas upon the people, 
and set to work with a brutality that turned all 
consciences against them. 2 

The Spanish nation was conquered only in 
appearance ; the lower class alone, who had obtained 
advantages by being converted to Islam, accepted 
Arab domination without excessive animosity; but 
the aristocracy, robbed of their lands, the Christian 
priests reduced to a miserable condition, the Visigoths 
fallen from power, all detested the invader and 
preached revolt. The want of tact on the part of 
the fakis only added fuel to their hatred. 

Thus it happened that Hashem’s successor, 

1 Ibn Adhari, il Hrst. de PAfrique e-fc TISspagne,” 

3 Akhbftr Medjmoua, 



El-Hakem (795-821) had to suppress several revolts. 
Wishing to counteract the ill-timed zeal of the fakis, 
he incurred their animosity and had to baffle their 
intrigues. Whether against them or against the 
populace he employed violent methods : fire, the 
sword, and poison ; he was a rough fighter, unre- 
strained by any scruples : witness this poem that he 
wrote for his son before his death : 1 

“Asa tailor uses his needle to sew together pieces 
of stuff, so have I used my sword to re-unite my 
separated provinces ; for, since the age when I began 
to think, nothing disgusted me so much as the 
dismemberment of the Empire. Ask to-day on my 
frontiers if there is any part of it in the enemy’s power ; 
they will tell you No ; but if they say Yes, I will fly 
there clad in my cuirass with my good sword in my fist. 
Ask too if the skulls of my rebel subjects, which, like 
colocynth apples split in two, bestrew the plain and 
whiten in the sun’s rays; they will tell you that I 
have smitten them without giving them any peace. 
Stricken with terror the insurgents fled to escape 
death; but I, always at my post, I laughed at death. 
If I have spared neither the women nor their children, 
it is because they have threatened my family; the 
man who cannot avenge outrages offered to his family 
has no feeling of honour and everybody despises him. 
When we had finished exchanging sword-strokes, I 
forced them to drink a deadly poison ; but have I done 
any more than pay the debt that they had forced me 
to incur to them? Of a truth, if they have found 
death, it is because their destiny willed it thus. I 
leave you, then, my provinces pacified, O my son ! 
They are like a bed on which thou canst sleep in 

1 El-Maqqari, ** Analecta sur l’hist. d’Espagne,” trad. Dozy. 


tranquillity, for I have taken care that no rebel shall 
trouble thy slumbers .” 1 

El Hakem’s successor, his son, Abd-er-Rahman 
II., advised by the Syrians and Spaniards of his 
court, wished to rival in splendour the Caliphs of 
Bagdad. He lived the life of an Epicurean, solely 
preoccupied with tasting the delights of existence, 
leaving the cares of power to his favourites. Of 
these, one was a faki, the Berber Yahia, a pupil of 
the celebrated Malik, a fierce sectary, a wild tribune, 
who busied himself chiefly with religious questions; 
another was a Persian musician, a sort of adventurer, 
of an incredible verbosity and self-confidence, who 
set the fashion ; another, an Islamized Spaniard, the 
eunuch Nasr, deceitful and cruel, with all the hatred 
of a renegade for the Christians ; finally, there was the 
Sultana Taroub, an intriguing woman, devoured by a 
thirst for gold, who took advantage of the Caliph’s 
infatuation for her to pile up wealth . 2 

The Musuhnan fanatics, protected by Yahia and 
the eunuch Nasr, committed such excesses of zeal 
that they aroused a movement of revolt among the 
Christians. As in the heroic times of the Church, 
there was no dearth of fanatical devotees who sought 
martyrdom and who, there being no idols to destroy, 
insulted the Musulman magistrates. A Christian 
priest named Prefectus, having insulted a Cadi, was 
put to torture. Before dying, he predicted the death 
of the eunuch Nasr, his executioner. But, by a 
curious coincidence, Nasr had been commissioned by 
Taroub, the favourite, to poison the Caliph. The 
Caliph, warned by some suspicions, compelled him to 
drink the fatal cup, so that the eunuch died the very 

1 Ibn-Adhari, ‘ * Hist . de PAfrique et de PEspagne,” trad. Dozy, 
t. ii.. p. 85. 

2 Makkari, “ Ibn Khalikan.” 



next day after Prefectus suffered ; the Christians did 
not fail to attribute this end to the curse of the 
martyr, whom they considered as a saint. The 
example of Prefectus was followed by numbers of 
the faithful, who by their sacrifice reawakened the 
Christian sentiments of the masses. Most serious 
troubles resulted from these events. 

Abd-er-Rahman II. having died in the midst of 
all this, his son, Mohammed (852-886), found himself 
at grips with the gravest difficulties; first from the 
intrigues of Taroub, who wanted to raise one of 
her own children to power, and secondly from the 
exasperation of the Christians. Outbreaks took 
place on all sides ; he drowned them in blood ; at 
Toledo, eight thousand Christians were massacred; 
churches were destroyed, and the Musulman religion 
was declared obligatory . 1 

These persecutions merely increased the zeal of 
the faithful. Eulogius, the principal head of the 
Church, publicly insulted Mahomet and Islam in 
order to earn martyrdom, and was executed in 859. 
To form any idea of the exaltation of the Christians, it 
is necessary to read the criticisms passed upon Islam 
by the authors of the time : 

“This adversary of our Saviour,” said a monk 
speaking of Mahomet, “ has consecrated the sixth 
day of the week — which, because of the passion of our 
Lord, should be a day of grief and fasting — this day 
he has devoted to eating and drinking and debauchery. 
Christ exhorted his disciples to chastity ; this man has 
preached coarse delights, unclean pleasures, incest, to 
his followers. 

“ Christ preached marriage — but he, divorce. 

1 Ibn Adhari. 


Christ recommended fasting and sobriety — but he, 
feasting and the pleasures of the table.” 1 

The mountaineers of Andalusia, worked up by the 
priests, renounced Islam which had been forced upon 

them, and under the leadership of a certain Ibn- 
Hafpoun, rose to recover their independence. By a 
few lucky strokes, they caused serious losses among 
the Musulman troops. 

El Mondhir (886-888), on his way to carry on the 
struggle with the rebels, was poisoned by his brother, 
Abd’ Allah, who seized power. 

Abd 5 Allah (888-912), was a man of tortuous 
policy. His character presents a singular mixture 
of perfidy and devotion. Entirely without scruple 
although a bigot, he violated the most solemn engage- 
ments, committed the worst crimes, and yet at the 
same time was subject to fits of religious fervour; 
witness the following melancholy poem, composed in 
a period of remorse : 

“ All the things of this world are but ephemera ; 
there is nothing stable here below. Make haste, 

then, sinful man, to bid adieu to all mundane 
vanities, and become a true believer. In a little 
while, though wilt be in thy tomb, and damp earth 
will be east upon thy face, but lately so beautiful. 
Apply thyself solely to thy religious duties; give 
thyself up to devotion, and try to propitiate the Lord 
of heaven.” 2 

Alarmed by the revolts which were breaking out 
on all sides, Abd 5 Allah made a truce first with 
Ibn-Hafpoun ; but this step, having produced an 

1 Alvaro, “ Indiculus luminosus. ,, 

2 Ibn Adhari. 



effect contrary to his expectations, he resumed the 
struggle, with varying fortunes. 

His grandson, Abd-er-Rahman III., at the age of 
twenty-two, succeeded him (912-961). He was a 
sovereign of rare energy and great courage, probably 
the greatest of the Caliphs of Spain. 

He assumed command of the Musulman troops 
in person and pacified the country in a few months. 
He even extended his influence into Africa. He 
reorganized the public treasury, which had been 
emptied by his predecessors, and caused the taxes to 
be collected regularly so that they produced annually 
a total exceeding six million pieces of gold ; of this 
he devoted one third to current expenses, another 
third to embellishments, and the remaining third he 
placed in reserve. In 951, he had in his coffers more 
than twenty million pieces of gold. A wise and 
tactful administration caused the old quarrels between 
Christians and Musulmans to be forgotten, and 
brought back prosperity once more. Commerce 
developed to such an extent that the customs duties 
inward and outward were sufficient to meet the public 
expenditure. His reign was for Musulman Spain a 
period of unquestionable splendour. 1 And yet, Abd- 
er-Rahman was not happy : having caused one of his 
sons to be executed for plotting against him, he was 
so tortured by remorse that it hastened his end. He 
expressed his grief in the following verses, which 
were found after his death : 

“ Fifty years have gone by since I became Caliph : 
wealth, power, pleasure — I have enjoyed them all, I 
have exhausted them all. Rival Kings respect me, 
fear me, and envy me. All that a man could desire, 

that has Heaven granted me. Ah ! well, in this long 
1 Dozy, t. ii., p. 350. 


spell of apparent happiness, I have counted up the 
days when I have been really happy, and I have 
found them to amount to fourteen. Mortals, form a 
just estimate of power, of the world, and of life .” 1 

The very remarkable record of work accomplished 
by Abd-er-Rahman III. was carried on by his son, El 
Hakem II. (961-976), who, having imposed peace on 
the neighbouring Christian princes, administered the 
finances of the Empire with prudence. He made 
such economies in sumptuary expenditure that he 
was able to reduce taxation. Under the advice of 
Islamized Spaniards of his court, he protected art and 
letters as no other Caliph had done before him. 
Keen to educate himself, he attained a degree of 
intellectual culture very rare at that time. He had 
a passion for rare and valuable books, and kept a 
number of scribes in the principal towns of Islam — 
Bagdad, Damascus, Cairo, and Alexandria, whose 
business it was to make copies of any remarkable 
works. His library at Cordova contained over four 
hundred thousand volumes. In order to spread the 
advantages of education and the blessings of religion, 
he created numerous primary schools and many 
superior colleges, where selected professors taught 
grammar, rhetoric, and even philosophy, after 
Aristotle . 2 The University of Cordova, reorganized 
under his care, became celebrated; the liberality of 
the Caliph drew to it the most renowned doctors of 
the Musulman world : Abu-Ali-Kali, of Bagdad, 
taught there everything connected with the ancient 
Arabs, their history, their proverbs, their language, 
and their poetry. These lessons were subsequently 
collected and published under the title of Amali or 

1 Ibn Adbari, 

2 Ibh-Kbaldoun, “Prolegomena/’ 



lectures . 1 Ibn al Koutia taught grammar. Abu- 
Bekr ibn Moawia, of the Koreich, dealt with the 
traditions relating to Mahomet . 2 Thousands of 
students flocked from all parts of the kingdom to 
follow the teaching of these illustrious masters. 

From among the young students of this Univer- 
sity there emerged the man who was to give to the 
power of the Caliphs its greatest expression of might 
and splendour, but who was at the same time to 
ruin it by his ambition : Abu- Amir Mohammed, 
better known as Al Manzor (the victorious). Sprung 
from a middle-class family, but devoid of scruples and 
anxious only to succeed, he raised himself by means 
of skilful intrigue to the highest offices. Beginning 
as a poor public writer, then secretary to the Cadi 
of Cordova, he was recommended to the Caliph’s 
favourite Sultana, Sobh (Aurora), who engaged him 
as administrator of her eldest son’s estates, the child 
being then five years old . 3 Thanks to the Sultana’s 
interest, whose lover he is said to have been, he was 
appointed inspector of the Mint, an important post, 
which by placing at his disposal, almost without 
check, considerable sums, enabled him to form a 
following of devoted partisans. Sent into Mauretania 
to supervise the conduct of the Caliph’s generals, he 
succeeded by tact and discretion in winning the 
friendship of both officers and men. On his return, 
El Hakem II., feeling himself seriously ill, made him 
major-domo to his son, Hashem, who was still too 
young to wield power. 

On Hakem ’s death, Abu- Amir Mohammed, 
ridding himself very cleverly of the personages who 
might stand in his way, proceeded, with the con- 

1 Ibn-Khaldomij trad. Slane. 

2 Ibn-Adhari. 

3 Oardonne, u Hist, de TAfrique et de PEspagne,” 



nivance of Sultana Sobh, to relegate Hashem II. to 
the women of the harem, and himself assumed 
power. 1 After a few military successes over the 
Christian princes of the neighbouring States, he took 
the title of A1 Manzor, the victorious, and then that 
of Malik Karim, the magnanimous king. Having 
fallen out with Sultana Sobh and threatened with 
dismissal, he extorted from Hashem II. a declaration 
handing over to himself the conduct of affairs. His 
ambition was his ruin. In order to maintain his 
prestige and popularity, he engaged in a ruinous 
war with the Christian States. Defeated at Kalat 
Annozer by a coalition of the princes, and wounded in 
the course of the action, his pride was so mortified 
that he made no struggle against death (1002). 2 

Hashem II. might have taken advantage of this 
opportunity to resume pow r er; but he did nothing. 
Dividing his time between the women of his harem 
and religious exercises, he allowed Abd-el-Malik, the 
son of A1 Manzor, to govern in his place. But the 
new regent had not the qualities of his father. This 
was the beginning of the downfall of the Musulman 
Empire in Spain ; the causes of its dissolution can 
already be discerned : 

The absence of any national unity. The con- 
querors, drowned as they were in the flood of a hostile 
population who, though outwardly converted to 
Islam, had preserved their own mentality, their 
customs, and the sentiment of nationality, formed 
a minority incapable of exercising any directive 
influence. The Arabs were, in fact, merely 
encamped in the countries they had hastily con- 
quered ; their occupation was precarious ; whilst their 

1 Xbn-Adliari. 

3 Dozy, (C Hist, des Mustilmans (PEBpagne,” 


Semitic mentality kept them outside the pale of Latin 

The subject population was divided against itself ; 
the Islamized Spaniards lived on bad terms with the 
Christians, who regarded them as renegades ; the 
Berbers, who formed the great bulk of the army, 
hated both Arabs and Spaniards alike, and were only 
concerned to live at the expense of either one or the 
other. The Caliph, kept apart from the people, was 
powerless to impose his will. A court composed of 
adventurers and servile courtiers, in haste to get 
rich, isolated him from the masses. And then, in 
addition, there was the constant menace of the 
neighbouring Christian States, which had become the 
refuge of all the malcontents, of all those who had been 
robbed, of all those who had refused to make any sort 
of compromise with the conqueror and had preferred 
to abandon their property rather than deny their faith. 
This menace kept alive in the hearts of the vanquished 
the hope of revenge, in the belief that some day the 
invader would be driven out. 

This fragile structure had been kept together after 
a fashion by energetic rulers having at their disposi- 
tion an irresistible military force ; but as soon as power 
fell into the hands of incapable Caliphs, the hostile 
elements, who had been kept together by force, 
withdrew from their compulsory alliance, and anarchy 
took the place of order. 

Abd-el-Malik had been barely tolerated. The 
Spanish people, with a vague consciousness of their 
dignity, bore with increasing impatience the rule of a 
parvenu without any real authority. The situation 
was aggravated after the death of Abd-el-Malik, 
when his brother, Abd-er-Rahman wanted to take 
his place. The hatred which had long been accumu- 


lating against this family of parasites broke loose. 
As the imbecile, Hashem II., did not intervene, 
various pretenders came forward, notably a certain 
Mohammed, in whose favour the Caliph abdicated, 
and who took the surname of El-Mahdi Billah . 1 

This meant civil war and anarchy. Abd-er- 
Rahman was murdered by the populace; El-Mahdi 
put Hashem II. into close confinement and gave out 
that he was dead, which did not improve the 
situation. A grandson of Abd-er-Rahman III., 
Soleiman, was proclaimed Caliph. The palace mer- 
cenaries, under the lead of a certain Wadhih, killed 
El Mahdi, under the pretext of restoring Hashem II., 
they then killed Wadhih who was abusing his power. 

Soleiman took Cordova ; and when he reproached 
Hashem II. with having abdicated in favour of his 
rival Mohammed, the Caliph replied, joining his 
hands : <£ Alas ! you know I have no will ; I do what 
they tell me ! But spare me, I beseech you, for I 
declare again that I abdicate, and I appoint you 
my successor .” 2 This language shows the depth of 
cowardice into which Hashem had fallen. 

In the provinces the Berber leaders revolted ; the 
populace betook themselves to pillage; adventurers 
arose on all sides to foment these troubles. There 
were several Caliphs attempting to reign at the same 
time : Ali Ibn Hamoud ; then a grandson of Abd-er- 
Rahman III., Abd-er-Rahman IV. (1016); then 
Kassim (1023); then a son of Abd-er-Rahman IV., 
Abd-er-Rahman V. (1023); then an Ommeyad, 
Mohammed II. al Mostakfi (1024); then Yahia, son 
of Ali Ibn Hammoud (1025) ; then Hashem III. al 
Motamid, elder brother of Abd-er-Rahman V. (1026- 
1029), a rot fainSant who passed his life at table, 

1 De Maries, 11 Hist, de la conquete de PEspagne par les Arabe$P* 

2 Ibn-Adhari. 



between actors and dancing-girls. Driven from 
power, this ne’er-do-weel who cared only for wines, 
flowers, and truffles, was replaced by a sort of 
Senate, made up of Viziers and other influential 
personages (1029). 1 

Each province and every town of importance 
became a separate State ; Cordova fell from its rank 
as the capital and was supplanted by Seville, where 
the executive power had been entrusted to the Cadi, 
Abul-Kassim Mohammed, of the family of the Beni- 
Abbad or Abbadites. To put an end to these 
rivalries and re-establish some sort of order, he made 
use of a stratagem. He had found, in the person of 
a mat-weaver of Calatrava, the living double of 
Hashem II., and he claimed that the Caliph was not 
dead, that he had found him in a prison ; and he gave 
the outward signs of power to this mat- weaver, 
reserving the real governing power to himself (1035). a 

His son, Abbad (1042), succeeded him as hadjib 
or prime minister to the so-called Hashem II. 
Suspicious, corrupt, treacherous, given up to drunken- 
ness, tyrannical, and cruel, this man seemed to 
combine in his own person every possible defect. He 
got rid of the pseudo-Caliph and reigned under the 
name of Abbad II. in the midst of general anarchy. 

His son, A1 Motamid (1069), less corrupt, tried 
to restore order ; but his attempts were unfortunate ; 
and in despair he entered into an alliance with 
Alphonse V. (1080). The latter, in case of success, 
reserved for himself Toledo, leaving to his ally 
Badajoz, Granada, and Almeria. This understand- 
ing was specially favourable to the Christian King in 
giving him possession of Toledo and thus delivering 
to the Spaniards all the fortresses on their side of the 

1 Dozy, op. cit, 

2 Ibn-Adhari. 


Tagus, and giving them a solid base of operations for 
the future. 3 

The Arabs, feeling their situation precarious, 
appealed to the Almoravid Yousef ben Tafsin, 
established in Morocco, whose warlike successes and 
great qualities centred upon him the hopes of the 
Musulman world. They realized that in doing this 
they were merely changing masters ; but, as A1 
Motamid expressed it, they would rather be camel- 
drivers in Africa than swineherds in Castile. 

Yousef crossed over into Spain (1086) and 
obtained a first success over the Christians; he was 
about to follow this up when the death of his son 
compelled him to return to Morocco. Left to him- 
self, A1 Motamid sustained severe reverses; the 
Christians, led by chiefs of the highest courage, such 
as the famous Rodrigo de Campeador (The Cid), took 
possession of the province of Murcia (1087). 

At the request of A1 Motamid, Yousef returned 
to Spain, where, taking advantage of the rivalries of 
the Arab leaders and of the complaisance of the 
Berber chiefs, he carved out for himself a State in the 
south of the peninsula, where his authority was 
exercised without opposition (1090-1094). There 
remained only one independent Musulman State, that 
of Saragossa, where Mostain, of the family of the 
Beni-Hamed, ruled. On his death, Saragossa was 
handed over to the Almoravids (1110). 

Yousef owed his success to the fakis who had 
carried on an active propaganda on his behalf and who 
had legalized his usurpation by religious texts. Him- 
self very devout, he rewarded them by according them 
the most extensive privileges. It was a reign of 
narrow fanaticism and of religious oppression carried 

1 De Maries, op. eit. 



on by Islamized Berbers who scrupulously observed 
the letter of the Islamic dogma and applied the 
commandments of the Koran with inflexible rigour. 
This regime was prolonged under Yousef’s successors, 
Ali and Teshoufin, up to 1143. 

The intellectual culture, developed by Islamized 
Spaniards under the patronage of liberal-minded 
Caliphs, was annihilated. The poets had to exclude 
every licentious expression, every profane metaphor 
from their writings, and to limit themselves to 
extolling the benefits of Islam ; the philosophers had 
to confine themselves to a servile imitation of the 
orthodox writers; men of science were obliged to 
desist from researches which carried them beyond 
the narrow borders of dogma. Even Ghazzali, 
the great Musulman theologian, whose works had 
been called the proof of Islamism, was ranked 
among the ungodly. It was the destruction of 
all thinking, the return to barbarism. Naturally, 
the Christians and Jews were persecuted with the 
utmost rigour. For fifty years Musulman Spain 
lived under the rough discipline of ignorant and 
bigoted sectaries who set themselves the task of 
killing every tendency towards progress at its birth . 1 

Exasperated by this unbearable tyranny, the 
people finally rose against the bigots. They were 
aided in their rebellion by the Arab chiefs, who 
wished to free themselves, and also by the neighbour- 
ing Christian States. It was the time when the 
enthusiasm that had aroused the great crusading 
movement was still vibrating. The Christian princes, 
taking advantage of the hostility of the people against 
their Musulman oppressors, engaged in the struggle. 
The moment was favourable. The Berber Almor- 

1 Dozy, op. cit. 



avids had lost their warlike qualities through their 
residence in Spain; whilst the Spaniards, who had 
been converted, detested their tyrants more than 
ever. Alphonse of Arragon made several successful 
incursions into Andalusia ( 1125 ) ; Alphonso VII. of 
Castile took Xeres ( 1133 ); Roger Guiscar took 
possession of Candia and Sicily, and his son conquered 
the islands of the coast ( 1125 - 1143 ). 

The Almoravids having lost all prestige, a certain 
Mohammed ben Abd’ Allah gave himself out as the 
Mahdi, the Messiah who was to regenerate Islam ; and 
from Africa, where he had just founded the dynasty 
of the Almohades, he crossed over into Spain (1120- 
1130 ). His successor, Abd-el-Moumen ( 1130 - 1160 ), 
accomplished the conquest of Africa, and then fought 
in Spain against the Christian princes. His son, 
Yousouf ( 1172 - 1184 ), carried on the war with 
alternating success and failure, and his successor, 
Yacoub, took up the holy war against the Christians 
( 1184 ). He took Calatrava, Toledo, and Salamanca. 1 

The accession of the Almohades was the result of 
the movement of reaction against the fanaticism of 
the Almoravids. Thanks to the liberal spirit of the 
members of this dynasty, civilization which had been 
stifled by bigoted ignorance, shone with a new 
brilliancy by the help of Islamized Spaniards. The 
same fact may be noted throughout the whole course 
of Musulman history : namely, that whenever the 
religious party is in the ascendant, and the Caliph is 
amenable to its suggestions, civilization is stifled and 
there is a retrogression of the subject peoples towards 
barbarism. On the other hand, there is an expansion 
of civilization as soon as the subject people are able, 
thanks to the administration of a tolerant prince, to 

1 De Maries, op. dt. 



develop freely their national qualities. When Islam 
triumphs, it is the Arab spirit that dominates, that is 
to say a spirit poor in imagination, incapable of 
invention, and which, being quite unable to conceive 
anything beyond what it perceives directly, observes 
scrupulously, fanatically, the letter of the sacred 
texts. When the religious party ceases to wield 
power, the subject people, left free to think and act, 
escape from the narrow pillory of Islamic dogma and 
obey the inspirations of their own genius. It is a 
further proof of the deadly influence of Islam. The 
expansion of civilization that was produced in Spain 
under the tolerant administration of the Almohades, 
following the fanatical tutelage of the Almoravids, 
shows once more the correctness of this view. 

The reign of Yacoub marks a renaissance of Latin 
civilization. Belles lettres, which had been disdained 
by the coarse and devout Africans, were once more 
held in honour; poets and men of science were 
understood and appreciated, and sumptuous monu- 
ments on every side bore witness to the wealth and 
liberality of the Almohades. 

Mohammed - el - Nasr (1205), who succeeded 
Yacoub, at first followed his example, but moved by 
ambition he had dreams of military glory and wished 
to undertake expeditions against the Christians. In 
1205 he took the Balearic Isles, and was so intoxicated 
by this success that he lost all prudence, and in 1210 
invaded the neighbouring Christian States. 1 

This was a blunder ; for Islam no longer had at its 
disposal armed forces adequate for the realization of 
conquests. The Berber armies, corrupted by contact 
with Latin civilization, had lost their powers of 
endurance and their bravery and had become nothing 

1 Sedillot, tl 1 Hist, des Arabes,” 



more than hordes of undisciplined old soldiers. On 
the other hand, the Christians, fired by religious zeal, 
were possessed of formidable armies. 

As soon as the Musulmans made their attack, 
Pope Innocent III. preached a crusade and sixty 
thousand foreign volunteers crossed the Pyrenees in 
response to his appeal and joined forces with the 
Spanish Christians. A great battle fought in the 
plains of Tolosa ended in the defeat of the Musulmans 
(1212). The Christians, encouraged by this success, 
followed it up by a succession of victories. The 
Islamized Spaniards, who had only remained quiet 
from fear of reprisals, now rose. The Arab and 
Berber leaders, wishing to be free, followed their 
example, and there ensued a fresh period of anarchy, 
which was fatal to the Almohades. The successors 
of Mohammed-el-Nasr, Abu Yacoub, and Almamun 
tried in vain to stem the disorganization of the 
Empire. The Christians continued their successful 
progress until in 1232 the dominion of the Almohades 
in Spain was totally destroyed. 

Of the Musulman States there remained only 
Granada whose sovereign, Mohammed al-Hammar, 
was able to make a show of resistance. Granada had 
become the refuge of those Musulmans who could not 
submit to a foreign yoke. Threatened on all sides, 
they united together and thus enabled the kingdom 
of Granada to subsist for more than two centuries 
(1238-1492) ; but its fall was fated. El-Zagal, one of 
the successors of Mohammed al-Hammar, capitulated 
in 1492. 1 

That was the end of Islam in Spain. What had 
happened elsewhere happened again in Spain : the 
Arabs transplanted into the country were, so to 

1 Dozy, “ Hist. des. Muonlmans d'Espagne.” 



speak, poisoned by Latin civilization. It is indeed 
notable that the Arab has never been able to profit 
by the intellectual or scientific achievements of other 
nations ; he has contracted their defects, but he has 
shown himself incapable of assimilating any of their 
good qualities. The reason of this is simple. The 
law, of religious inspiration, which rules tyrannically 
every act of a Musulman, and which has been based 
upon Arab customs, that is to say, the customs of a 
barbarous people, does not expressly condemn the 
grosser forms of pleasure; contrary to Christianity, 
Islam does not preach continence nor the contempt 
of sex. With the exception of the prohibition of 
fermented liquors, it leaves the faithful complete 
liberty in all that concerns material enjoyments. 
Mahomet boasted of his love of perfumes, of women, 
and flowers. But the law of Islam fixes in a rigid and 
unchangeable way the intellectual limits that the 
Musulman cannot pass without denying his faith. 
It has thus prevented those who accept it from bene- 
fiting by the progress of civilization realized by other 
nations, without defending them against the vices 
of these same nations. The consequence has been 
that whilst remaining intellectually barbarians, the 
followers of the religion of Islam have assimilated the 
vices of societies refined by an ancient civilization. 

In Spain, the Arab became weakened by contact 
with Latin culture. The man of war became 
effeminate. Being quite unable, from his want of 
intellectual equipment, to exert any influence over 
the mentality of the newly converted, he was content 
to impose himself by force ; and thus power slipped 
from his hands as soon as a more easy life and the 
abuse of material pleasures had caused him to lose his 
qualities of vigour and endurance. The vanquished. 



in response to the sentiment of nationalism, revolted 
as soon as he felt himself strong enough and drove out 
the invader. 

The expansion of civilization, which was produced 
in Spain under the reign of tolerant Caliphs, was due 
entirely to Islamized Spaniards, that is to say, to 
Latins who, in spite of their conversion, had kept 
intact their mentality and their genius. Even the 
Arab literature of Spain shows the effect of Latin 
influence . 1 Within the limits allowed him by the 
law of Islam, the conquering barbarian has submitted 
to the impress of the conquered, more civilized than 
himself. As everywhere else, the Arab has copied, 
but has invented nothing. The monuments of 
Cordova, of Seville, and of Granada, are the work of 
Spanish architects. The Arab gave the orders, but 
no instructions. The Caliph said : “I want a 
palace,” but he could never find any Arab capable of 
drawing up the necessary plans, and had to entrust 
this duty to Islamized Spaniards ; just as at Damascus 
and at Bagdad, it was Syrian and Greek architects 
who erected the monuments wrongly attributed to 
the Arabs. 

1 Dozy, op. cit. 


Arab decadence in Persia, Mesopotamia, and Egypt — The 
provinces, relapsed into barbarism temporarily under 
Arab dominion, are re-born into civilization as soon as 
they are able to free themselves — General causes of the 
decay of the Arab Empire : Political nullity — Absence of 
creative genius — Absence of discipline — Bad administra- 
tion — No national unity — The Arab could only govern 
with the collaboration of foreigners — Secondary causes : 
Religion, the vehicle of Arab thought — Too great a 
diversity among the conquered peoples — Despotic power 
of the prince — Servile position of women — The Islamiza- 
tion of the subject peoples raised them to the level of 
the conqueror and allowed them to submerge him — Mixed 
marriages — Negro influence — Diminution of the Imperial 
revenues — The mercenaries. 

I T would be wearisome to follow through all its 
details the history of the provinces brought 
into subjection to the Arabs. It may be 
briefly summarized. The same causes having 
produced everywhere the same effects, the various 
countries conquered by the Arabs followed the 
example of Spain and worked for the dismemberment 
of the Empire. In Persia, in Mesopotamia and in 
Egypt, it was above all nationalist sentiments, 
awakened by foreign domination and strengthened 
by religious persecution, that drove the people to 
revolt . 1 

This movement towards independence reveals a 
remarkable fact, already noted in the case of Spain : 
the provinces fallen into barbarism under the Arab 

1 Th. Noeldeke, “ Hist, des Parses et des Arches au temps de 


yoke, returned to civilization as soon as they had, 
by their emancipation, recovered liberty of thought 
and action. This is a striking proof of the desolating 
influence exercised by the Arabs. As soon as the 
Musulman doctrine triumphs, there is intellectual 
paralysis of the people upon whom it is imposed ; as 
soon as this doctrine suffers an eclipse, the people, left 
to the free inspiration of their genius, escape from 
barbarism and return to civilization. The history of 
every province in revolt against Arab authority 
illustrates this proposition. 

From 814, Khorassan, given by Caliph Al- 
Mamun to one of his generals, Thaher, in reward for 
his services, became independent. Thaher, a man of 
war, troubled himself little about religious doctrines ; 
he was a liberal-minded man, and as such allowed his 
subjects complete liberty of conscience. They soon 
recovered by favour of this tolerance and developed 
their national genius ; we find an immediate renewal 
of civilization. Men of science and of letters came 
in considerable numbers and set themselves to work ; 
there has been preserved an observation of the 
autumnal equinox of 851 made at Nichabor, the 
capital of Khorassan, with a great armillary sphere 
reading to minutes . 1 

In 864, Tabaristan, a small province on the borders 
of the Caspian Sea, freed itself by the help of Hassan 
ben Zai'd, one of the Alides. 

In 870, a Persian, Yacoub-es-Soffar, raised the 
standard of revolt in Seijestan, then, seizing Khorassan 
and Tabaristan, he formed a considerable kingdom. 
His accession to power was the result of a reaction 
of Persian nationalism against the Arab spirit, a 
nationalism coloured by religion, for Persia in accept- 

J Sedillot, “ Hist, des Arabes/’ 



ing Islam had so adapted it to her own genius that 
she had changed the doctrine in some respects. The 
dynasty of the S off ar ides, of which Yacoub was the 
founder, was continued later by that of the Saman- 
ides, also Persian. Here again we may note an 
intellectual renaissance. The people of Persia, of a 
very advanced civilization, needed but a little liberty 
to enable them to emerge from Arab barbarism. 

Between 930 and 940 , Djezireh, then Armenia 
and Georgia freed themselves from Arab tutelage. 
But the most extended movement broke out in 
central Persia, where the people in obedience to 
national feeling raised to power a family of Deilimite 
origin, the Bouides. Here again, as soon as the 
Arab domination came to an end, there was a renewal 
of civilization. A prince of this dynasty, Adhab-ed- 
Doulah, took in hand great works of general utility ; 
engineers were directed to canalize the river Bendemir 
near Shiraz. They succeeded in preventing the 
inundations which had periodically destroyed cultiva- 
tion, and handed over to commerce a new means of 
communication. Science and letters were held in 
honour. This brilliant period was prolonged to 1060 , 
until the coming of the Seljuks. 

The latter, although barbarians, favoured civiliz- 
ation, because, being Musulmans only in name, they 
showed themselves tolerant in their rule. One of 
the successors of Togrul-Beg, the founder of the 
dynasty, Djebel-ed-Din Malek-Shah ( 1072 - 1092 ) con- 
tributed by a wise administration to the development 
of general prosperity. This barbarian protected 
learned men and writers, and succeeded in constitu- 
ting a vast empire which included the greater part 
of Persia, the Greek territories as far as the Bos- 
phorus, Djezireh and Syria. But his sons, impelled 


by ambition, embarked on civil war which ruined this 
vast empire and led to its dismemberment. 

In 877, a freed Turkish mercenary, Ahmed ben 
Thoulon, to whom Caliph A1 Motamid had entrusted 
the government of Egypt and Syria, declared himself 
independent of the Empire. His motive was ambi- 
tion, but he was aided by the people who were weary 
of Arab constraint. Once rid of the heavy hand of 
the Abbassides, the two provinces which had been 
almost ruined by the exactions of officials and by 
religious persecution, soon recovered their former 
prosperity. Ahmed ben Thoulon, who had only 
recently been converted to Islam, had but a very 
slight acquaintance with the subtleties of the 
faith ; and being anxious for popularity, he 
displayed a liberal spirit, calmed the zeal of the 
fanatics, protected the arts and sciences, raised 
monuments with the help of Egyptian and Syrian 
architects, made roads, opened canals and set up 

His son, Khomarouiah (884), following his 
example, allowed complete liberty to the indi- 
vidual, surrounded himself with an elegant court, 
and distinguished himself by his prodigality. At 
the instigation of the learned men of the country, he 
had an immense menagerie built at Mesrah where 
wild animals of every sort were kept. 

The Fatimites, who succeeded the Thoulonides, 
ruled as they had done with the assistance of the great 
local families. 1 Moez-Ledinilla (953-975), who was 
the first Fatimite Caliph of Egypt, and who founded 
El Kahira, and his successor Aziz-Billah (975-996), by 
their liberal administration, favoured the development 
of commerce, of industry, and agriculture ; whilst by 

1 Makrizi, “ Ittiaa-el-Hounafa.” 



their generous treatment they encouraged writers and 
savants. Ibn-Younes, the Egyptian, had his observ- 
atory, like the astronomers of Irak, and was able to 
compose his celebrated astronomical tables . 1 The 
prosperity of this province increased until the revenue 
from it alone was equal to what had formerly been 
collected by Haroun-al-Raschid from the whole 
extent of the Empire. 

In spite of the folly of Hashem, a sort of Oriental 
Nero who distinguished himself by sadic excesses 
(996-1020) ; in spite of the incapacity of Dhaber 
(1020-1036); in spite of the disappointed ambitions 
of Abu-Tamin Mostanser (1036-1094), Egypt con- 
tinued to be prosperous until 1171, when for a time 
she again fell under the dominion of the Abbassides. 
From 1171 to 1258, when the last Abbasside died, was 
a period of barbarism and anarchy further accentuated 
by the enterprises of the Christian Crusaders, which 
began in 1096. 2 

The Abbasside Caliphs, weakened by a life of 
debauchery, were too feeble to offer any effective 
opposition to the taking of Antioch (1098) or of 
Jerusalem (1099). 

It was a Seljuk, Emad-ed-Din Zenghi, who had 
carved out for himself an independent kingdom 
between Djezireh and Irak el Arabi, who led the 
Musulmans against the Christians and arrested their 

His work was continued by his two sons, Sif-ed- 
Din and Nour-ed-Din. The latter, notably, took 
Damascus, then threatened by the Crusaders ; whilst 
one of his lieutenants, Shirkuk, took Egypt in hand. 
Shirkuk’s nephew, Salah-ed-Din, the Saladin of our 

1 Sedillot, op. eit. 

a “Becueil des hist, orient a ux des Ooisadss.” 


chronicles, overthrew the Fatimites (1171). 1 On the 
death of Nour-ed-Din in 1174, he became the ruler 
of Egypt, of Syria, of Mesopotamia, and of Arabia. 
In 1185, his Empire extended from Tripoli, in Africa, 
to the Tigris, and from the Yemen to the Taurus 
mountains. He took from the Christians Acre, 
Ascalon and Jerusalem (1187). On his death, the 
ambition of his sons broke up this Empire; one of 
them took Egypt, another Damascus, and the third 
took Aleppo and Upper Syria. This was the 
dynasty of the Aioubites. The two former were 
dispossessed by their uncle Malk-Adhel-Sif-ed- 
Din, who reunited into one State Egypt and Lower 
Syria and took Tripoli from the Crusaders (1200- 

On his death there was a further dismemberment. 
In the thirteenth century, the Musulman Empire was 
no more than a cloud of small States wrangled over 
by the representatives of the different dynasties and 
the partisans of the various sects, of whom the most 
active at that time were the Ismailiens or Hachichin, 
who came to light in Persia about 840, under the 
inspiration of Mazdeism. 

A new race of conquerors, the Mongols, now 
invaded Asia Minor and added to the general anarchy ; 
after making themselves masters of Tartary and 
China, Genghis Khan and his successors fell upon the 
Musulman Empire (125 8). 2 Egypt and Sj^ria held 
out until 1517. Power passed finally out of the 
hands of the Arabs, who disappeared before more 
warlike conquerors — : the Turks and the Mongols; 
they had no longer any political existence beyond 
the confines of the peninsula, and disappeared hence- 

1 Michaud* u Hist, des Oroisades.” 

3 Djouvaini^ “ Tarrikhi Djihan Kouch&i”; Rashid-ed-Dm-Fadh , 
Allah* ** Djami al-T&warikh. ,> 


forward from the history of the nations of the 

Having now reviewed the history of the Arab 
Empire from its origin down to its final collapse, it 
may not be beyond the bounds of possibility perhaps 
to unravel the causes of its decline and fall. 

There were certain general causes, connected with 
the Arab temperament and mentality, and resulting 
from the natural shortcomings of the Arab, from his 
customs, from the conditions of his existence during 
centuries in a special milieu — the desert. 

Then there were secondary causes, consequent 
upon the mistakes committed by the Arabs as 

Taking first the general causes, we find that the 
Arabs were never a political people, capable of great 
aims and of patient effort in view of their realization. 
They were a nomadic people, primitive, simple 
beings, not very far removed from animalism, 
obeying their instincts, unable to curb their passions 
or to control their desires. Powerless to conceive a 
higher interest, to cherish a lofty ideal, they have 
always lived a life of indiscipline. Subject to chronic 
anarchy, the Arab has never been able to subordinate 
his individual egoism to the pursuit of any great 
collective task, to the realization of any national 

Even at the time of their greatness and power, 
they were a sort of federation of egoisms, brought 
together and kept together by the pressure of 
circumstances, but ready at any moment to fly at 
each others’ throats. 

Incapable of invention, they have copied, but have 
never been able to create. Incapable of progress, 
they tolerated the forms of government they found 


in existence in the lands they conquered, but they 
could never improve upon those forms, nor replace 
them by any other. 

A homely illustration will explain our meaning. 
The intelligence of an Arab rises as high as the faculty 
of imitation. Put him on a motor-car or a locomotive 
engine, and after a certain time of apprenticeship, 
he will be able to drive it ; but if the machine should 
get out of order, he will be quite incapable of 
repairing it, and still less could he make a new one. 

In the same way, the Arab conqueror succeeding 
to civilized peoples such as the Persians or the 
Byzantines, has been able to take over their system of 
administration ; he has even been compelled to adopt 
it, since he could not substitute for it any scheme 
of his own devising ; he has been able to assure the 
working of the adopted system for a certain time; 
but as soon as circumstances called for some modi- 
fications, he has not been able to effect them, since 
he had no gift of invention or creative genius; and 
when the system got out of order for want of 
measures rendered necessary by new conditions, by 
the evolution of ideas and of manners, he could 
neither repair it nor replace it by any system of his 
own. The machine of government wore out rapidly 
and finally stopped running; and when it stopped, 
ruin followed. 

In Northern Africa, the conquering Arab was 
unable to repair the barrages and other hydraulic 
works that had enabled the Romans to endow the 
country with unexampled agricultural prosperity. 
He made what use he could of them, so long as they 
lasted ; but, when they fell into ruin, either by the 
ravages of time or by wanton destruction, the 
prosperity of the Moghreb collapsed, drought struck 



the land with barrenness and the desert took the place 
of fields and orchards. 

The Arab is no administrator. A careless nomad, 
accustomed to live from hand to mouth, submitting 
to the accidents of daily life without being able to 
foresee them, and never dreaming of providing 
against them, he is quite incapable of government. 
So true is this that the capital of the Empire has 
never been in Arabia ; it was for a time in Syria, then 
in Mesopotamia, then in Spain, then in Egypt ; that 
is to say, wherever the Caliphs found foreign 
collaborators with the talents necessary to make up 
for their own shortcomings. So long as these 
collaborators were strong enough to impose their 
will, behind the fagade of Caliphal power, there was 
some appearance of government. But, when the 
conquering Arab, intoxicated by his successes or 
blinded by religious fanaticism, wanted to rule by 
himself, anarchy immediately succeeded to order and 
the whole structure went to pieces. At no period 
did the direction of the affairs of the Empire proceed 
from Arabia, so that there could never be any national 
power, any national ideal, national interest or national 

The various provinces were always split up by 
rivalries, because each one of them, in view of the 
inability of the Conqueror to impose discipline and 
directive, preserved its own particular ideals, its own 
ambitions, friendships and hatreds ; so that the Arab 
Empire was never anything better than a mosaic of 
ill-assorted blocks without bond or cohesion. 

The Arab is a barbarian. Up to the time of 
Mahomet, Arabia was inhabited by shepherds and 
robbers ; there is no evidence of the existence of a 
society, of any collective organization or intellectual 


movement. When these primitive beings, solely- 
preoccupied by the satisfaction of material desires, 
sprang forward to the conquest of the world and fell 
into the midst of nations far advanced in civilization, 
they became rapidly corrupted. When the Bedouin, 
brought up to the rough life of the desert, accustomed 
to privation and suffering, was transplanted to 
Damascus or Bagdad, to Cordova or to Alexandria, he 
soon became a prey to all the vices of civilization; 
the half-starved creature was ready to burst with 
indigestion; the Spartan, by necessity, hitherto, 
became at once a Sybarite. 

Unable to restrain his instincts, he entered into 
the enjoyment of an easy life and became perverted. 
Coarse and ignorant, he succumbed to the influence 
of subordinates more civilized than himself. He 
never had any authority but that of physical force; 
and when that passed from him by reason of his 
debasement, he forfeited all power. When foreign 
assistance was withdrawn, he became himself again — 
the Bedouin Arab. 

The Bedouin cannot conceive any condition better 
than his own ; he cannot imagine anything that does 
not actually exist, that he cannot see, that he does 
not possess. Driven by the keen desire for plunder, 
he left his desert and rushed to the conquest of the 
world. In contact with more civilized people he 
imitated, copied, and adopted all that he had been 
powerless to imagine for himself. He borrowed his 
religion from the Jews and Christians ; his scientific 
knowledge and his legislation from Greco-Latin 
civilization; but whilst copying he has often missed 
the pure spirit of the original and distorted that which 
was beyond his limited understanding. In so far as 
he has been thrown into close association with other 



peoples, he has succumbed to their influence, parodied 
their luxurious habits and their refined manners ; but 
as soon as this foreign influence has been withdrawn, 
he has not been able to keep what he has learnt, but 
has fallen back into his original character as a coarse 
and ignorant Bedouin. It was in this way that after 
the fall of the Barmecides, their talented Persian 
ministers, the dynasty of the Abbassides, which up 
to then had had a brilliant career, fell suddenly into 
insignificance and decay. 

Taking a bird’s-eye view of Arab history, it is 
seen to be divided into several periods coinciding 
with the influence exercised by different foreign 
nations ; there is the Syrian period, during the 
Caliphate of the Ommeyads ; the Persian period, 
during the reign of the Abbassides ; then the Spanish 
and the Egyptian periods, under their successors. 
During one period only the Arabs acted alone, this 
was during the reign of the first successors of 
Mahomet, and it should be noted that during this 
period the Arabs confined their efforts to conquest, 
plunder and destruction. 

So far as the Bedouin has been submerged by 
foreigners, he has unconsciously come under their 
influence, and has been licked into some sort of 
shape by contact with them ; and it was due to this 
circumstance that a certain expansion of civilization 
took place that has been falsely attributed to the 
Arabs, whereas its real authors were the Syrians, 
the Persians, the Hindus, the Spaniards, and the 
Egyptians. But as soon as the Bedouin has been 
left to himself, he has relapsed into his ancestral 
barbarism, the anarchical barbarism of the desert 

These appear to be the general causes that explain 



the rapid decay and final collapse of the Arab Empire. 
But there are secondary causes whose influence upon 
its destinies was less only in degree. These causes 
are numerous : 

In the first place, religion. Islam, as we have 
already said many times, is a secretion of the Arab 
brain ; it is the adaptation of Judeo-Christian 
doctrines to Arab mentality. For want of imagin- 
ation, the Bedouin has failed to animate his belief 
with any lofty ideal; it is very plantigrade, without 
horizon, like his own thought. Its ideal is the ideal 
of a nomad, of a dweller in the desert, of a primitive 
still floundering in the mud of material things — 
of animal satisfactions, eating, drinking, enjoying, 
sleeping — the poor philosophy of a brute whose 
mind does not penetrate the causes of things : of a 
fatalist who submits to events and resigns himself to 
whatever may happen. 

Such a doctrine, anything but favourable to the 
development of intellectual faculties, was further 
aggravated by the clumsy zeal of fanatics, who, in 
the second century of the Hegira, succeeded in 
fixing it immutably, in crystallizing it, and, worse 
still, in clothing it with a sacred character by alleging 
its divine origin, thus making of it an intangible 
whole, and rendering any later evolution, any 
modification, any progress impossible. 

Having thus become ossified, immutable, imper- 
fectible, this doctrine has withstood the action of 
centuries ; it is to-day what it was at the time of 
the Abbasside Caliphs. As it was forced upon the 
subject peoples, and as they, to avoid persecution, 
finally adopted it, it has stifled free will, together with 
the power of evolution and of accepting the teach- 
ings of experience ; it has lowered their minds 



to the level of Arab mentality. Those countries 
which were able to free themselves in good time from 
the Arab yoke and to escape from the Musulman 
religion, like Spain, Sicily, and Southern France, 
have kept their capacity to progress, and have been 
able to follow the course of their destiny as civilized 
nations ; the others who, before their Islamization 
had shown undoubted aptitudes for progress, such as 
Syria, Persia and Egypt, have sunk into barbarism 
since their conversion, and have stayed there. 

The deadening influence of Islam is well demon- 
strated by the way in which a Musulman comports 
himself at different stages of his life. In his early 
childhood, when the religion has not as yet impreg- 
nated his brain, he shows a very lively intelligence 
and a remarkably open mind, accessible to ideas of 
every kind ; but, in proportion as he grows up, and 
as, through the system of his education, Islam lays 
hold of him and envelops him, his brain seems to 
shut up, his judgment to become atrophied, and 
his intelligence to be stricken by paralysis and 
irremediable degeneration. 

Yet another cause that has hastened the decline 
of Arab dominion is to be found in the great diversity 
of the conquered peoples. The Arab Empire was 
formed haphazard as conquest followed conquest. 
The conquered nations, tribes, and colonies were 
divided by different interests, aspirations and neces- 
sities ; there was no national unity. The chief bond 
of cohesion in a State is a common language, which 
brings about a close communion of ideas, and is 
materialized in a sort of way by the creation of a 
capital city, a vital centre, the heart as it were of 
the nation. 

The Arab Empire was never conscious of my 



such unity. The Latins, Greeks, Slavs, Arabs, 
Persians, Hindus, Egyptians, and Berbers, brought 
together by the iron will of the conqueror, could 
neither understand each other nor fraternize nor 
combine for the pursuit of any common ideal. They 
formed a shapeless and ill-assoi'ted whole. As soon 
as the authority that imposed an artificial cohesion 
upon them disappeared, they parted company and 
the Empire crumbled. 

Another cause of decadence was the despotic 
power of the prince, at once temporal and spiritual 
head of the State. Whilst such tremendous power 
might yield remarkable results in the hands of a man 
of genius, it became an instrument of ruin when 
wielded by an incapable; but men of genius are 
unfortunately rare, and, as we have seen, apart from 
a few exceptions, the Caliphs were inferior to their 

The absence of any law of succession was a 
further cause of decline. By neglecting to fix any 
rule to regulate the succession, Mahomet left the 
door open to intrigue and ambition of all kinds ; and 
this element of destruction was still further aggra- 
vated by the insubordinate spirit of the Arabs and by 
the rivalries that split up every tribe. 

The servile position of women, imposed by 
Islam, has been and still remains a cause of decadence 
for the Musulman community. Relegated to the 
harem, a beast of burden amongst the poor, a 
creature for pleasure amongst the rich, the wife, shut 
off from the outer world, remains the depositary of 
ignorance and prejudice ; and as it is she who brings 
up the children, she inculcates the traditions of 
barbarism of which the egoism of the male has 
constituted her the guardian. 



The gravest error committed by the Arab 
conqueror was in compelling the conquered peoples 
to become converts to Islam. By the fact of 
conversion, the vanquished became the equal of his 
vanquisher, entitled to enjoy the same rights, the 
same privileges ; and as in the majority of cases he 
was his superior in intelligence and intellectual 
culture, he came to exercise a preponderating 
influence ; so that the conquering Arab, by the very 
reason of the rapidity and extent of his conquests, 
found himself, as it were, drowned in a sea of foreign 
peoples who imposed their manners upon him and 
corrupted him. They dominated him all the more 
easily as he was incapable, through want of knowledge 
and experience of taking the lead and of establishing 
his moral authority. 

The same mistake had been committed by the 
Romans in former days, when they had granted the 
citizenship to barbarians. 

“ An exchange was established between Italy 
and the Provinces. Italy sent her sons to die in 
distant lands and received in compensation millions 
of slaves. Of these, some were attached to the 
land, cultivated it, and soon enriched it with their 
bones ; others, crowded together in the towns, atten- 
tive to the vices of a master, were often freed by him 
and became citizens. Little by little the sons of 
freed men came to be in sole possession of the city, 
composed the Roman people, and under this name 
gave laws to the world. Prom the time of the 
Gracchi, they alone nearly filled the Forum. . . . 
Thus, a new people succeeded to the Roman people, 
absent or destroyed .” 1 

The systematic Islamization of the vanquished 

1 Michelet, u Hist. Romaine.” 




had a still more fatal consequence for the Arabs. 
The greater part of the slaves were Negroes, that is 
to say they belonged to an inferior race, absolutely 
refractory to all civilization. By accepting Islam, 
these slaves raised themselves to the level of their 
masters ; mixed marriages were frequent and numer- 
ous, and thus the Arab blood was impoverished. 
This crossing effectively corrupted and debased the 
Arab race. 

Everywhere else, in Syria, in Persia, in India 
and Egypt, in the Moghreb and in Spain, mixed 
marriages enabled the subject population to submerge 
their conqueror. The Arab race was diluted to such 
an extent that it is impossible to find a single 
representative of it to-day, among the Musulman 
peoples, outside of Arabia. 

The Islamization of the vanquished had yet 
another consequence : it diminished the revenues of 
the Empire. What constituted the wealth of the 
Caliphs and enabled them to display a pomp and 
magnificence that reinforced their authority was the 
tribute paid by non-Musulmans in consideration of 
the right to preserve their own beliefs. When, after 
the second century of the Hegira, the fanatics 
compelled the vanquished by their persecutions to 
become converts to Islam, the new Musulmans 
became the equals of the Arabs, they ceased to pay 
tribute, and the treasury of the Caliphs was soon 

When, through the increasing effeminacy of the 
Arabs who had lost their warlike qualities of strength 
and endurance, and had betaken themselves to 
mercantile pursuits, the Caliphs could no longer 
recruit Arab soldiers, they were obliged to have 
recourse to foreign mercenaries. This was the 



origin of the Turkish, Slav, Berber and Spanish 
troops, who, under the last Caliphs, ended by 
disposing of power and choosing the sovereign. 
Mercenary troops, who by their turbulence had 
hastened the downfall of the Roman Empire, in the 
same way contributed to the ruin of the Arab Empire. 

Such were the multiple causes that brought about 
the decadence and final collapse of Arab dominion. 


The Musulman community is theocratic — Religious law, 
inflexible and immutable, regulates its institutions as well 
as individual conduct — Legislation — Education — Govern- 
ment — The position of women— Commerce — Property — 
No originality in Musulman institutions — The Arab has 
imitated and distorted — In his manifestations of intel- 
lectual activity he appears to be paralytic, and since he 
has impregnated Islam with his inertia, the nations who 
have adopted this religion are stricken with the same 
sterility — All Musulmans, whatever their ethnic origin, 
think and act like a Bedouin barbarian of the time of 

H AVING studied the history of the Arab 
Empire and penetrated the causes of its 
decline and fall, we are in a better position 
to understand the psychology of the Musul- 
man, or rather that deformation that has come about 
through Arab influence, with Islam as its instrument, 
in every individual who has adopted this religion. 

The Musulman community is theocratic; every- 
thing in it is regulated by religious law, the most 
trivial actions of the individual as well as its 
institutions. God is the supreme master. Know- 
ledge is not considered to be a means of knowing 
Him better, or of serving Him more intelligently. 
Human intelligence and human activity have no 
other object than to glorify Him. The individual is 
brought to this conception by a whole network of 
measures and enactments woven by the doctors of the 
faith in the second century of the Hegira. 




Ibn-Khaldoun says in his Prolegomena that one 
of the distinctive marks of Musulman civilization is 
the practice of teaching the Koran to young children. 
He might have added that the teaching of the Holy 
Book, to the exclusion of all else, constitutes the 
curriculum of primary, secondary, and higher studies. 
God being the dispenser of all good things, everything 
is brought back to Him — science, the arts, and all 
manifestations of human activity. To know His 
word is the sole preoccupation of the faithful ; but the 
Koran is written in a dead language that a Musulman 
cannot understand without special study ; and so, to 
simplify the task, he has had to be content with 
reading the sacred text without seeking to understand 
it. To read well, to pronounce the words correctly, 
there you have the whole scibile of the nations of 
Islam . 1 

Moreover, it would be of no service to a believer 
to be able to understand the divine word, since he is 
not allowed to interpret it, nor to take it as his rule 
of conduct by applying it to current events. The 
interpretation of the Koran has been fixed once for 
all by the orthodox commentators ; this interpretation 
is final, and no Musulman may modify it under 
penalty of apostasy. This formal and irrevocable 
prohibition shuts the Mahometan nations off from all 
progress. Executed at barbarous epoch, the ortho- 
dox interpretation has for a long time past fallen short 
of the progress in every domain realized by civilized 
nations ; the world has evolved, but the true believer, 
entangled in a net of obsolete texts, cannot follow 
this evolution. In the midst of modern States he 
remains a man of the Middle Ages. To convince 
oneself of this it is only necessary to make a cursory 

1 Sawas Pasha, “ Dt. sur le Droit musulman.’* * 



examination of the various institutions of the Islamic 

Legislation . — The Koran is, in principle, the 
source from which the Musulmans have drawn their 
inspiration ; but Mahomet had neither the time, nor 
possibly even the intention of establishing an exact 
doctrine settled in all its details. In his anxiety to 
attract followers, he tried his best to please everybody. , 
He was a diplomatist and a tribune rather than a 
legislator. According to circumstances, he expressed 
an opinion or a theory which he had no hesitation in 
repealing on the following day, if the interest of the 
moment demanded it. Again, the Koran contains 
commandments so contradictory that it would be 
difficult to extract any precise rules of conduct from 
it, beyond the recognition of the unity of God and 
the mission of His Messenger. In this way Mahomet 
at one time declared that Christians and Jews, people 
of the Book, were to be respected for the same reason 
as Musulmans ; and at another time that they were to 
be exterminated without mercy. This is but one 
example of his contradictions ; many others might be 

The consequence is that the Koran is a singularly 
confused code, and that the successors of the Prophet, 
charged with its application, were sometimes very 
much embarrassed. The more scrupulous of them 
surrounded themselves with counsellors chosen from 
among those who had lived on intimate terms with 
the Messenger of God and were supposed to know his 
mind. Others acted on the inspiration of the 
moment, often enough according to their own good 
will and pleasure. But when the tide of Arab con- 
quest had extended the Empire, the Caliph, finding 
it a physical impossibility to dispense justice by 


himself unaided, had to delegate his powers, and as it 
would be dangerous to leave each of these delegates at 
liberty to interpret the sacred texts for himself, the 
necessity of drawing up a code sufficiently precise for 
their use was recognized. 1 

The work roughly drafted by the earlier Caliphs 
and continued after them in different parts of the 
Empire, was finished by certain jurisconsults who 
were the founders of the four orthodox rites : 
Malekite, Hanefite, Chafeite, and ITanbahte. The 
work of each of the four interpreters of the Koran, 
conceived on the same principles, is a sort of 
compilation of very diverse texts. These are : 

1. The commandments of the Koran. 

2. The sayings of the Prophet, recorded by his 
early companions. The word of God (Koran), and 
the conduct of his Envoy ( Sounnet ), are the chief 
sources of Musulman law. The divine word was 
communicated by the angel of the Lord to Mahomet, 
and by him transmitted to men, in terms identical 
with those the angel had used and which the Elect of 
the Most High ( Moustafa ) had faithfully preserved in 
his memory. The conduct of the Prophet is similarly 
the result of divine inspiration, direct and immediate ; 
it comprises the sayings, the actions, and the approba- 
tions, explicit or tacit, of the founder of Islam. God 
and the Prophet are the Musulman legislators ; their 
legislation is, according to the sanctioned phrase, a 
precious gift of Heaven . 2 

But the commandments of God (Koran) and those 
of the Prophet (Sounnet) were not sufficient to meet 
all cases; it was, therefore, necessary to complete 
them. The jurisconsults, incapable of accomplishing 

1 Seignette, “ Introd. a la trad, de Khalil/’ 

2 Sawas Pasha, op. cit. 


this work by drawing from their own inner conscious- 
ness, sought elsewhere the inspiration they lacked. 
The sources from which they drew are known : — 

3. Roman Law , which was in force in the majority 
of the newly conquered countries — Syria, Egypt, and 
Moghreb. But in adopting these laws, the Arabs 
distorted them to such an extent that their original 
signification was lost ; 

4. Pre-Islamic customs which, while not con- 
demned by the Koran, were considered as approved ; 
and others which had been modified by the Prophet 
without having been abolished ; 

5. The Old Testament, for the commandments 
relating to murder and adultery j 1 

6. Judgments delivered by the Caliphs in accord- 
ance with the Koran. 

According to the orthodox commentators who 
fixed the doctrine, legislation is the acquaintance of 
man with his rights and duties. This knowledge is 
obtained by study of the science of law which 
comprises both philosophy and morals. 

Philosophy lays down the relations of man to other 
beings, and between man and the Legislator par 
excellence, who is God. Morality teaches the rela- 
tions which ought to exist between the individual 
members of a community, or between the individual 
and the community. It forms the conscience of the 
man and that of the Judge, and strengthens it to the 
point of enabling the one and the other to distinguish 
beauty ( legality ) from ugliness (illegality ). 2 

The four interpretations of the Koran represent 
four different texts. Wherever Musulman law is in 
force every believer may choose one or other of these 

1 S. Levy, u Moise, Jesus, Mahomet.” 

3 8&wa$ Pasha, 



interpretations ; but his choice once made, he must see 
that his conduct conforms to it. 

The works of the commentators have replaced the 
Koran itself to such an extent that the Koran can no 
longer be quoted in support of a judgment. A legal 
decision stated as being based upon a text directly 
derived from the revealed Book would be null and 
void, and might entail a penalty upon its author. 
Such a mode of proceeding would constitute, in effect, 
a heresy, and would be regarded as an attempted 
insubordination to the orthodox interpretations. 
These are final and unchangeable. No one has any 
right to modify them by extension or restriction. 

But, as they were drawn up in the second century 
of the Hegira, at a barbarous period, they have 
immobilized the Musulman community, and now 
they hinder its evolution. They have afflicted the 
brains of all believers with irremediable stagnation; 
and so long as they are in force, those believers will 
remain incapable of progress and civilization. 

Education . — According to the Musulman doctors, 
human knowledge is derived from two principal 
sources — reason and faith. Again, the sciences form 
two classes : the rational (Akl’ia) and the imposed or 
positive (Ouadiya ). 1 

The rational comprise those that man can acquire 
by his own reason, without the help of revelation ; 
such are geography, mathematics, chemistry, physics, 
astronomy, etc. ; they are considered as secondary, 
and in the programmes of teaching, or curricula, they 
yield the first place to the sciences of revelation that 
man owes to the divine generosity. These comprise 
two categories : 

1 Ibn-KhaldoHHj “ Prolegomena 99 ; Ebn-Sina, ei De divisions 


The sciences of language, or instrumental sciences 
— reading and writing, which allow one to approach 
the study of the Koran. 

The sciences of law which treat of the reading 
of the revealed Book and of the legislative appli- 
cation of the divine words, made by the orthodox 

The sciences of law are subdivided into sciences 
of origin and sciences deduced from these original 
sources. The sciences of origin concern the study of 
the sources of religion and of law, that is to say the 
Koran and the conduct of the Prophet. This study 
comprises first the reading of the Koran and of the 
Hadith, or collected sayings of Mahomet; it is the 
application to the sacred texts of the principles 
taught by the sciences of language. As soon as one 
has acquired the perfect reading of the Koran, one 
proceeds to the explanation of the words which 
together make up the revealed Book; this is called 
the annotation. 

When the student possesses a complete knowledge 
of the origins or sources, he passes on to the study of 
the deduced sciences, that is to say, those that flow 
from the sources properly so-called : viz., the Koran 
and the Hadith. They comprise the study of 
religious doctrine and of the beliefs connected with 
it, and of the theory of law and of the applications 
of the law. 

Law forms part of the theological sciences because 
it enables one to distinguish the licit from the illicit, 
good from evil, according to the commandments of 
the Koran and of the Hadith. “ The theory of law 
forms the first subdivision of legislative sciences. 
The applications of law are divided into three distinct 
groups. The first refers to human actions having a 



religious character : prayer, fasting, the obligation of 
giving alms, the pilgrimage, the holy war ; the second 
refers to legal dispositions concerning human actions 
of a purely social and contractual character.” 1 

Such is Musulman education : it is pure scholas- 
ticism. It may be well to add that this education is 
given in the mosques, that each professor takes the 
course that suits him, and each student follows the 
lectures of his favourite professor. Neither matricu- 
lation nor diplomas limit the entire liberty enjoyed by 
the professors and their pupils. There exists, how- 
ever, one form of recognition of the studies pursued. 
Each professor delivers to the most meritorious of his 
pupils an authorization to teach in their turn ( Idjaza ). 
The Idjaza is delivered either in writing or it is given 
orally by the professor, not for one science or for a 
group of sciences, but just for one book read or 
learnt, for one definite branch of a science ; for 
instance for one reading of the Koran, for several of 
these readings, or for all the readings ; for the Hadith, 
for grammar, for caligraphy, or for one or several of 
the commentaries.* 

Such an education is almost fruitless, since 
the scientific part is suppressed in favour of the 
theological part. It benumbs the brain and renders 
knowledge stationary. A nation might read the 
Koran and explain minutely every word for centuries 
without advancing one step on the road to progress. 
By marking time, as it were, in the tedious repetition 
of a tiresome lesson, the mind loses its elasticity, its 
sagacity, and its curiosity; the intellect becomes 
atrophied and incapable of an original effort. It is 
here that we must seek for the cause of the intellectual 
torpor of Musulman nations. 

1 Sawas Pasha. 

2 Yacoub Arfcin Pasha, op. cit. 


The Musulman Community: The Government . — 
In studying any Musulman institution, we must never 
lose sight of the fact that the laws governing it are 
of a religious order. The Musulman community is 
steeped in a religious atmosphere. The language 
and the legislation are the gifts of God ; everything 
in Islam is contained in religion. Public and 
private instruction, administration, justice, finance, 
the assessment of taxes, international relations, 
peace, war, commerce, the arts, trades, and profes- 
sions, the exercise of charity, public security, public 
works, all have a religious character. Nothing can be 
maintained, nothing will work except through religion 
and through its ordinances. A learned Asiatic calls the 
peoples of Islam “ Corpora ecclesias .” 1 

The government, like the other institutions, is 
of religious inspiration. The Caliphate, a mode 
of government that succeeded to the patriarchal 
administration of the Prophet, was a religious 
institution fraternal and popular. Musulman authors 
give the following definition of it : “ Musulmans 
should be ruled by an Imam (Caliph) having the right 
and authority to watch over the observance of the 
precepts of the law, to see that legal penalties are 
enforced, to defend the frontiers, to raise armies, to 
levy the fiscal tithes, to suppress rebels and brigands, 
to celebrate public prayer on Fridays and the feasts of 
Beyram, to judge the citizens, to admit juridical 
proofs in contested cases, to marry children under the 
legal age, of either sex, who have no natural 
guardians, to proceed finally to the division of legal 
booty .” 2 

In its origin, in conformity with the institutions 
of the Prophet, the Caliphate was not a despotic 

1 Sawas Pasha. 

a u Cat^chisme d© Timam Nedjem-ed-Din NassaiL” 



government. “ The theocratic law of Islam forbids 
any individual to act capriciously, solely according to 
his personal leanings; it ordains and protects the 
rights of private persons ; it imposes on the sovereign 
the duty of taking counsel before action. This law 
has been imposed by God upon his impeccable 
Prophet, although, as such, he had no need to consult 
anybody, since he was acting under divine inspiration 
and was endowed with all perfections. But that 
injunction was only laid upon the Prophet for a high 
reason, which was to establish an obligatory rule for 
all who should come after him ..” 1 

This theory fell into disuse when the Arabs, 
extending their conquests, found themselves in the 
midst of people accustomed to despotic rule, like the 
Syrians, the Persians, the Egyptians, etc. The 
Caliph then became an absolute sovereign and the Cali- 
phate a sort of military despotism which had its apogee 
about the second century of the Hegira, with the 
dynasty of the Abbassides. As it was at this period 
that the foundations of the different institutions were 
fixed by law, it followed that the doctrine relating to 
government was naturally inspired by that which then 
existed, and that the principle of the absolute power 
of the Caliph became a dogma. The doctors of the 
faith who drew up the legislative texts' intended to 
reserve to themselves a share in the government by 
specifying that the prince could not decide upon any 
matter without first consulting them; but as they 
were at the mercy of his will and pleasure, it was he 
who, in reality, exercised power without control. 

In fact, the Musulman sovereign is an absolute 
monarch, a military war-lord and a religious ruler in 
one. He has the power of life and death over his 

1 Tbn-Khaldoun ? “ Du Souverain.” 


subjects. The best proof of this is that they pay a 
capitation tax, a sort of ransom or permission to live, 
for which the official receipt bears these significant 
words : “ Ransom from being beheaded.” Whoever 
owns property is only the usufructuary of his estate ; 
on his death, the sovereign can claim the whole or part 
of his heritage. 

The r 61 e of the prince would be a crushing burden 
for one man; but in the East, where one soon 
becomes a believer in the minimum of effort, the 
Caliphs were not long in finding a means of lighten- 
ing their task by delegating their powers to a Vizier. 
The latter passed his own on to the Pasha; the 
Pasha shuffled off his duties on to the Bey ; the Bey 
on to the Caid, and the Caid on to the Sheikh. Such 
a division of authority augments the number of 
oppressors, favours bribery and corruption, and hands 
over the population to an innumerable rabble of 

The Vizier takes the sovereign’s place in the 
administration of affairs, the command of the army, 
and the supervision of the officials. His office is a 
dangerous one ; the holder serves as a buffer between 
prince and people ; he must endure the caprices of the 
one and incur the hatred of the other ; but the position 
is so lucrative, it admits of so much extortion, that 
candidates have never been wanting. 

Administrative decisions are taken by a divan or 
Council of State, composed of high personages ; but 
they, chiefly concerned to carry favour with the 
prince or with his Vizier, are but servile creatures, 
ready for any compromising actions. 

The Ulemas, or doctors of theology and juris- 
prudence, form a special body whose duty is to watch 
over the observance of the fundamental laws, to 



register as religious dogmas the decrees issued by the 
Council of State. This control is purely theoretical, 
since the Ulemas depend upon the goodwill and 
pleasure of the sovereign. They are, in addition, 
charged with the dispensation of justice. Their 
supreme head is the Sheikh-El-Islam, who must be 
consulted when a law is to be decreed, a tax imposed, 
or a war undertaken; he has under his orders the 
Cadis who dispense justice without appeal. 

The purely civil authority is wielded by the 
Pashas or governors, whose business it is to see to the 
maintenance of order and the payment of taxes. 

In principle, there can only be one sovereign in 
Islam — the Commander of the Faithful. According 
to the Hadith, he should be of Koreich origin ; but, in 
the absence of a suitable member of that family, it is 
the man who at the moment has the disposal of the 
material force that guards the interests of the Empire. 
His nationality matters little ; for the Musulman has 
only one country — Islam. He does not die for his 
country but for his faith. He is neither a Turk, an 
Egyptian, nor an Arab ; he is simply a Believer. 

To conclude, Caliphate government is a barbarous 
government, that of a conquering minority, occupy- 
ing countries subdued by force of arms, and solely 
concerned with exploiting them to its profit. It is a 
government of parasites, indifferent to the needs and 
the interests of the community. The Arab, incap- 
able of devising anything new, has retained his 
primitive conception of government, necessitated by 
circumstances, at the time when he was rushing to 
the conquest of the world. 

The Position of Women . — If we were to go by 
the commandments of the Koran and the sayings 
of the Prophet, the Musulman woman might be 



regarded as enjoying favourable treatment. As an 
able diplomatist, Mahomet tried to win over woman 
to bis cause and to make an ally of her at a time when 
he was struggling with his own people. This desire 
shows itself in all his sermons, and indeed the Bedouin 
woman does owe a great deal to him. Before his 
time, she was a sort of inferior being, without legal 
position, a slave to the good pleasure of the male. 
Mahomet tried to tone down the extreme egoism of 
the barbarous customs of which she was the victim. 

Exhortations to kindness abound in the Koran : 
“ Fear the Lord, and honour the womb that bare 
thee . . . O Believers ! it is not lawful for you to make 
yourselves the heirs of your wives against their will, 
nor to hinder them from marrying again when you 
have put them away, so that you may take away from 
them a portion of what you have given them. Be 
kind in your behaviour towards them. If you wish 
to change one woman for another, and you have given 
one of them a hundred dinars, let her keep it all.” 1 

“ Are you keeping your wife? treat her properly : 
are you divorcing her? do it generously.”* 

There is the same spirit of benevolence in the 
sayings of the Prophet collected in the Hadith : 
“ God commandeth you to be kind to your women ; 
they are your mothers, your daughters, your aunts.” 

In his own actions Mahomet set the example of 
kindness. He used often to amuse himself among 
his women ; and the story is told that one day he was 
running races with Aisha, and she beat him ; but the 
second time it was the Prophet who won. Then 
Mahomet said to her : “ The game is equal, O 
Aisha.” 3 

1 Koran, Oh. XV. 

a Ibid., Ok II. 

3 Sheikh Mohammed-es-Senoussi ; “ Epanoiussement de k fleur.” 



One day lie invited some Abyssinians to come and 
play at his house, and asked his wife to be present at 
their games; but, in order that she should not be 
seen by the audience, he placed her between the two 
doors of the house and stood in front of her, remaining 
in this position until she had finished watching the 
players. Then, when his wife had returned to her 
own apartments, the Prophet, addressing the com- 
pany, said : “ The best of Believers is he who shows 
the most gentleness and delicacy towards women. 
The first among you is he who is most amiable with 
his women, and I am better than you as regards 
my own .” 1 

Before his death, Mahomet again insisted in favour 
of a cause that was dear to him : 

“ Treat women well; they are your helpers and 
they can do nothing by themselves ; you have taken 
them as a property that God has entrusted to you and 
you have taken possession of them with divine words.” 

It must at the same time be admitted that the 
Prophet has also made certain concessions to male 
jealousy, and that he has recognized certain Arab 
customs : “ Virtuous women are obedient and sub- 
missive, those who disobey you will banish to a 
separate bed and you will beat them .” 2 

“ Bid the women who believe to lower their eyes, 
to observe continence, to allow none but their out- 
ward charms to be seen, to cover their bosom with a 
veil, to let none but their husband, their father, or 
their husband’s father see their charms ... or 
children who cannot distinguish the difference of 
sex. Women must not wave their feet about in a 
'Way to display their hidden charms .” 5 

1 Sheikh Mohammed-es-Senoussi • 

2 Koran, Oh. IV, v. 38. 

* Ok, XXIV, 



One day a woman asked the Prophet what were 
the duties of a wife towards her husband : to her he 
replied : “ A wife should not leave her home without 
her husband’s leave; it is this consideration that 
justifies the use of the veil .” 1 

In their intimacy, she should comply with all the 
desires of the male. “Go to your field as you 
like ” ; a which the commentators explain as follows : 
“Venite ad agrum vestrum quomodocumque volu- 
eritis, id est stando, sedendo, jacendo, a parte 
anteriori, seu posteriori.” 

Mahomet has not spoken of the education of 
women. The majority of the commentators hold 
that she ought to be forbidden to learn writing, 
poetry, and composition, because these studies con- 
tain a pernicious element that might spoil her mind 
and character. 

If account be taken of the usual customs of his 
day, it cannot be denied that the Prophet sensibly 
ameliorated the position of women; but there hap- 
pened to her what happens in the Musulman 
community in every direction of thought. 

Mahomet was of his time; it was impossible for 
him to foresee the evolution in ideas and in manners 
that would be accomplished after him. His words 
were applicable to the present and not to the future. 
If he could have foreseen this future, it is probable, 
given his temperament, that he would have accepted 
its progress. Unfortunately, the orthodox inter- 
preters of the Koran and of the Hadith, in the 
narrowness of their minds and in the blindness of 
their fanaticism holding to the letter rather than to 
the spirit of the sacred texts, fixed for all time the 
position of the Musulman woman; and .as they 

1 Sheikh Mohammed-es-Senpijssj, 

*JKprjaii, Oh. n. 


took for their basis the customs of the period, 
they rendered any ulterior improvement impossible. 
Humanity has made some progress since the second 
century of the Hegira ; the Musulman community 
has been unable to follow this evolution. 

The consequence is that women are treated to-day, 
throughout Islam, as their female ancestors were 
treated in the time of the Prophet. But what was 
then progress is nowadays retrogression. 

The Musulman woman thinks and behaves as did 
the ladies of Mahomet’s harem. Isolated from the 
life beyond her threshold, she remains in the bar- 
barism of ancestral custom. Her present position, 
compared with that of the women of other religions, 
is that of a slave. A magnificently got up animal, a 
beast of pleasure in the rich man’s house ; a beast of 
burden among the poor; she is nothing but a poor 
creature handed over to the good pleasure of the 
male. Condemned to ignorance by the egoism of 
man, she cannot even build in hope upon the future. 
She is the eternal cloistered captive, the eternal slave. 
Her ignorance and her barbarism have their weight 
upon the children she rears and to whom she trans- 
mits her opinions and prejudices. Ignorant herself 
she creates others like her; a barbarian, she spreads 
barbarism around her ; a slave, she gives her children 
slaves’ souls, together with all the vices of a servile 
nature — dissimulation, lying, and deceit. 

Commerce . — It has already been said, but it 
cannot be too often repeated, that everything, in the 
Musulman community, assumes a religious character. 
All manifestations of human activity are subjected 
to dogma, and can only be developed within the 
limits fixed and sanctioned by the rules of the 
faith. Commerce does not escape this tutelage, 



the laws that regulate it are inspired by religious 

“ The object of every contract,” says Khalil, 
“ should be : first, free from defilement ; second, use- 
ful ; third, lawful ; fourth, possible. So the following 
cannot be the object of a contract : manure, damaged 
oil, forbidden meat, an animal on the point of death, 

a sporting-dog, a stray camel, anything detained by 
violence in the hands of a third party.” 

The Koran having forbidden usury, 1 the inter- 
preters have “ gone one better ” on this prohibition. 
Musulman law qualifies as usury not only illicit gain, 
as we understand it, but “ all profit or advantage 
discounted or allowed in the exchange of gold and 
silver or in the exchange of foodstuffs . . . the wages 
taken in kind by the goldsmith from the weight of 
metal given to him to work up, or by the master of 
the oil-press on the weight of olives to be crushed; 
every combination suspected of concealing a loan 
under the form of a sale or amounting to a usurious 
profit.” 3 

In his desire to hinder usury, the Musulman 
legislator has fallen into subtleties that verge upon 
the absurd. As an example, the following clause : 
c< One cannot buy for gold what has been sold on 
credit for silver, nor for one currency that which has 
been sold in another.” 3 Lending at interest is 
forbidden in principle, but as it was difficult to 
suppress it altogether, it was replaced by sleeping 
partnership and by real pact or contract. 

“ Sleeping partnership is a contract under which 
one entrusts money to a merchant, for him to trade 
with, on condition of participation in the profits 

1 Koran, Ch. Ill, y. 125. 

2 Khalil, t. i., Oh. II. 

3 Ibid; t. i., Ch. II. 



thereof . 5 51 This form of loan was in existence among 
the ancient Arabs long before Islam; it was by a 
contract of this nature that Mahomet became the 
partner of Khadija. 

“ A real pact is a contract for a consideration, 
unilateral, creating a personal obligation to give a 
certain corporeal object, of a different nature from 
the thing received and not consisting of cash / 52 It is 
a form of barter. 

The attraction of gain being in reality the 
principal element in all commercial activity, the 
legislator has not been able to abolish the loan at 
interest. He fights with energy against usury; he 
solemnly declares that the exchange of produce or of 
objects ought not to give rise to any gain, but he 
immediately adds this subtle restriction : “ unless 
these things do not differ in the use to which they are 
destined. Thus, one may demand for a donkey of 
the Cairo breed two Arab donkeys ; for a race-horse 
two pack-horses ; more young animals in exchange for 
a full-grown one ; a sword of good make for several 
ordinary swords .” 3 There you have the loan at 
interest not only tolerated, but authorized. Who is 
going to interfere with the lender and compel him to 
swear that he has given a race-horse to the borrower, 
who pledges himself to repay two pack-horses, when 
in reality the horse lent may be identical in kind with 
the horses repaid, one of these representing the 
interest on the capital advanced ? 

Property . — In that which concerns property there 
is the same desire and the same impossibility of 
preventing usury. Mortgage is forbidden, but its 
place is taken by pledging, or rahnia. “ By rahnia 

1 Ibn-Arfa. 

2 Ibn-Arfa. 

3 Khalil, t. ii., Oh. I. 


is meant that which is handed over as the security 
for a debt .” 1 Musulman law distinguishes the 
pledging or pawning of a movable possession from 
the hypothecation of revenue, or nantissement, of an 
immovable possession. This sort of contract, far 
from hindering usury, favours it. The creditor is 
authorized to enjoy the pledged possession ; but this 
enjoyment, which represents the interest on his 
capital, often exceeds in value what our legislation 
considers as a lawful rate of interest. In the majority 
of cases, the borrower being unable to pay his debt, 
the lender keeps the pledged possession and disposes 
of it, as the real owner, for a ridiculous price. 

Property among a barbarous people is threatened 
by manifold dangers, and notably from spoliation. 
Musulman law tries to protect it, and it is with this 
object that it has instituted habous, the idea of which 
was inspired by the Novelise and the Institutes of 
Justinian. The habous is an institution according to 
which the owner of a property renders it inalienable 
by making over the enjoyment of it to some pious 
object or work of public utility, either immediately 
or on the extinction of the intermediate inheritors 
whom he names . 2 The head of a family thus protects 
his possessions from the extravagance of his heirs or 
from the covetousness and encroachment of influential 

There are also two liabilities to be noticed which 
encumber Musulman property, and which were, and 
still are, the cause of numerous quarrels between 
Europeans and natives — the rights of sport and of 
pasture. “No man may forbid hunting and fishing, 
even on his own land. ... No man may forbid 

1 Ibn-Arfa. 

3 J. Terras, “ Essai stir les biens Habous.” 



common rights of pasture on his waste lands or on 
land from which the crops have been reaped .” 1 

Landed property among the Arabs is subjected to 
a communistic regime. The land belongs to God, 
represented by the Caliph, who leaves the use of it to 
the Musulman community. This regime which is 
suitable to nomadism is fatal to the development of 
agricultural labour. 

1 Khalil, t. xxi.j Cfh. II. 


The sterility of the Arab mind is apparent in every manifesta- 
tion of intellectual activity — Arab civilization is the result 
of the intellectual efforts of non-Arab peoples converted 
to Islam — Arab science, astronomy, mathematics, 
chemistry, medicine, is only a copy of Greek science 
In history and geography the Arabs have left a few 
original works — In philosophy they are the pupils of the 
School of Alexandria— In literature, with the exception 
of a few lyric poems of no great value, they are under 
the inspiration of Greek and Persian _ models— -The 
literature of the Moors in Spain is of Latin inspiration — 
In the fine arts, sculpture, painting and music, the 
nullity of the Arabs is absolute. 

T HE sterility of the Arab mind is apparent in 
every manifestation of intellectual activity, 
and more particularly in letters, in art, and 
in science, whose culture calls for qualities 
of originality and imagination. When the Arab 
wished to embark upon a literary, artistic, or scientific 
work, he had nothing to draw upon in his own inner 
conscientiousness ; so he copied and imitated, without 
ever originating anything. 

What is called “ Arab civilization,” in so far as 
any manifestation of Arab genius is concerned, has 
never had any real existence. The civilization that 
passes under that name is due to the labour of other 
peoples who, subjected to Islam by force, continued 
to develop their aptitudes in spite of the persecutions 
of their conquerors. 

When the Arab people, under the earliest succes- 


ISLAM 217 

SOrs of Mahomet, undertook wars of conquest, they 
were a horde of rude barbarians, innocent of any 
intellectual culture, or of any artistic or scientific 
attainments. As compared with the Gi’eeks, Per- 
sians, and Egyptians, they were in much the same 
situation as the Berbers of Northern Africa find 
themselves to-day in relation to European nations. 

A series of unforeseen successes precipitated 
the Bedouins into the midst of civilized nations, 
who exerted an incontestable influence upon them; 
nevertheless they were slow to assimilate foreign 
attainments. The earliest works in the Arab 
language were composed under the rule of the 
Abbasside Caliphs, not by Arabs, but by Syrians, 
Greeks, and Persians, converted to Islam. It was 
only towards the third century of the Hegira that the 
Bedouins began to be civilized. It is to this period 
that the translations of Greek, Syrian, Persian, and 
Latin works may be dated, which revealed to the 
conquering Arabs stores of knowledge of which they 
were totally ignorant, and introduced among them 
the elements of former civilizations . 1 

But this foreign influence only made itself felt 
upon those Arabs who had left their country to 
settle in Syria, in Persia, or in Egypt. The bulk 
of the nation who stayed in Arabia were shut off 
from this influence, and remained in a state of 

To give the name “ Arab civilization ” to the 
artistic, literary and scientific movement that by a 
false documentation is made to coincide with the 
accession of the Abbasside Caliphs, is to fall into error. 
In the first place, because the Arab element only 

1 Yakoub Artin Pasha, u L’instruction publique en Egypt© J f 
pp. XI and X2. 



participated in it to an extent hardly perceptible ; and 
further, because this movement was the result of the 
intellectual activity of foreign nations only converted 
to Islam by force ; and finally, because the movement 
was already in existence in the countries conquered by 
the Arabs long before their arrival. The Syrian, 
Persian, and Indian works which are the manifestation 
of this intellectual movement, and which carry on the 
Greco-Latin work, are anterior to the Musulman 
conquests. It is, then, in defiance of fact to 
attribute this artistic and scientific effort to the Arabs, 
and to give the name of {C Arab Civilization.” to an 
intellectual movement due to the Syrians, to the 
Persians, to the Hindus, unwilling converts to Is lam , 
but who, nevertheless, had preserved the qualities of 
their race. In reality, the movement was nothing 
more than the continuation, and, as it were, the 
ultimate flowering of Greco-Latin civilization. It is 
easy to prove this. 

When Caliph A1 Manzor (745-755), fascinated by 
the brilliancy of Byzantine culture and advised by 
Syrian, Greek, and Persian officials, who filled the 
various offices of the Empire, wished to spread the 
knowledge of science, he caused translations to be 
made into Arabic of the principal Greek authors : 
Aristotle, Hippocrates, Galen, Dioscorides, Euclid, 
Archimedes, and Ptolemy. There were Syriac ver- 
sions of these authors already in existence, and the 
task of translating them into Arabic was therefore 
entrusted to Syrian scribes. It was through these 
translations that the Arabs made acquaintance with 
the Greek works, and upon them that they worked 
in the first instance. But the Syrian scribes, too 
recently converted to Islam to be fully imbued 
with Musulman dogma, were content to translate 



the Greek authors faithfully. The Arab fanatics 
consequently found these versions not sufficiently 
orthodox; certain passages wounded their religious 
feelings ; so, when they were sufficiently instructed to 
do without their Syrian intermediaries, they hastened 
to bring out new translations in accordance with 
Arab susceptibilities, and in harmony with Musul- 
man conceptions. They suppressed everything in the 
Greek works that seemed to them contrary to the 
teachings of Islam ; they added the religious formulae 
with which they were familiar, and they even carried 
their zeal to the extent of causing the names of the 
original authors to disappear. 

These compilations were made not from the 
original Greek, nor even from the Syriac versions, 
but from Arabic translations made from the Syriac 
by Syrian scribes, so that the thought of the original 
authors was not only distorted by these successive 
interpretations, but even falsified by Musulman 

These shapeless or distorted works, to which it is 
difficult to give a name, passed current during the 
Middle Ages as the original productions of Arab 
genius. Their true character was not discovered 
until much later, when, at the time of the Renais- 
sance, the Greek manuscripts were exhumed from 
ancient libraries and there were scholars capable of 
translating them. 

It was in this way that there were falsely 
attributed to the astronomer, Maschallah, who lived 
during the reign of Haroun-al-Raschid, certain 
treatises on the astrolabe and the armillary sphere, 
which were nothing but distorted reproductions, 
according to the method described above, of Arabic 
versions made by Syrians from Syriac translations of 



the works of Ptolemy. 1 About the same time, 
Ahmed ben Mohammed Alnehavendi, who, by the 
way, was a Persian converted to Islam, drew up some 
astronomical tables from the same source. 

Under the reign of Al-Mamoun, Send ben Ali 
and Khaled ben Abd-el-Malek Almerourandi, who 
measured a degree of meridian, did no more 
than apply the theories of Greek mathematicians. 
Another astronomer, Mohammed ben Moussa Alk- 
howarezmi, an Islamized Persian, drew up some 
tables after Hindu authors; and other tables were 
composed by Ahmed ben Abd’Allah Habach, from 
Ptolemy, and writers of his school. 

The famous A1 Kendi, who enjoyed such a great 
reputation in the Middle Ages, and who was known 
as the Philosopher par excellence, was an Islamized 
Syrian Jew. His works on geometry, arithmetic, 
astrology, meteorology, medicine, and philosophy, 
were translations or compilations from Aristotle and 
his commentators. 

Other astronomers and mathematicians, such as 
Albumazar, A1 Na'irizi, and Albategui— the two 
latter being Persians — were compilers from writers of 
the school of Alexandria. In fact, in astrology and 
astronomy the Arabs were merely imitators. 

Born in Chaldsea before the dawn of history, then 
imported into Egypt, this science was introduced into 
Greece, where its confused principles and observa- 
tions that had been transmitted orally from generation 
to generation, were co-ordinated and fixed in writing. 

Ptolemy’s Almagest may be regarded as a com- 
plete statement of the astronomical attainments of 
antiquity. . It was from this work, known to them by 
Syriac versions, that the Arab authors quarried, and 

1 Sedillot, " Hist, des Arabes.” 



upon which they commented, under a hundred 
different forms, without adding anything to the 

To the study of mathematics the Arabs in like 
manner contributed nothing new . 1 For a long time 
they were credited with the invention of algebra, 
whereas they did no more than copy the treatises of 
Diophantus of Alexandria, who lived in the fourth 
century ; but, as the source from which they drew was 
unknown in the Middle Ages, they were looked 
upon, quite wrongly, as the originators. 

The numerals commonly called Arabic, and the 
system of notation which bears the same name, come 
from Hindustan. The Arabs themselves call arith- 
metic “Indian reckoning,” and geometry “Indian 
science ” (hendesya). 

Arab knowledge of botany was obtained either 
from the treatises of Dioscorides, or from Hindu and 
Persian works . 2 

In chemistry, or rather alchemy, they were the 
pupils of the Alexandrian school. Djeber and 
Rhazes, the latter an Islamized Persian, did no more 
than copy the works of Alexandrian Hermetism . 3 

There is the same absence of invention in regard 
to medicine. From the third century of the Christian 
era, Greek physicians had found their way into 
Persia, where they founded the celebrated school of 
Djondischabour, which soon became the rival of 
Alexandria. They taught especially the doctrines of 
Aristotle, of Hipparchus, and of Hippocrates, which 
the Persians readily assimilated. Mesue, one of their 

1 Sedillot, li Eeclierches pour servir a Phist. des sciences math, 
chez les Arabes.” 

3 dement Mullet, “ Becherches sur Phist. naturelle et physique 
des Arabes.” 

3 Berthelot, “ Originea de la chimie ” ; Hoefer, i( Hist, de la 


pupils, of Persian origin, became physician to 
Haroun-al-Raschid, and composed several treatises 
in imitation of Hippocrates, among which may 
be quoted his Demonstrations, a Pharmacopeia, and 
some papers on fevers and on food. 1 

But it was especially at Alexandria that Greek 
medicine emerged from empiricism and assumed a 
really scientific character. 

Herephiles and Erasistratus by their works pre- 
pared the way for Galen, who was to give this science 
its full development. The treatises of Galen, under 
the name of Pandects of Medicine, were compiled 
and translated into Syriac by Aaron, a Christian 
priest who lived at Alexandria in the seventh century. 
This Syriac version was translated into Arabic in 685, 2 
and is the source from which the Arab physicians 
drew, notably Serapion, Avicenna, Albucasis, and 
Averrhoes, whose Koullyat is a downright translation 
of Galen. The only Musulman who introduced 
anything new into medicine was Rhazes, who died in 
932 : he was a Persian. He introduced the use of 
mild purgatives and of chemical preparations into 
pharmacy; he was regarded as the inventor of the 
seton and advocated the study of anatomy. 3 

Ali ben el Abbas, who carried on the work of 
Rhaz&s and who drew up a course of medicine, was 
equally a Persian. 

The celebrated Avicenna (Abu Ali Hossein ibn 
Sinna, 980), was born at Afchanah, in Persia. His 
best known work, the Kanoun, is a compilation of 
the treatises of Galen, from the Syriac versions. In 
a Latin translation, the Kanoun was very popular in 

1 keclerc, “ Hist, de la M^deoine Arabe.” 

3 Diguat, u Hist, de la M6deeme. ,> 

3 Bedillot, “ Hist, des Arabes,” 


Europe during the Middle Ages, and was looked upon 
as an original work. Avicenna cared so little for 
Musulman dogma that he used to drink wine, and 
recommended its use to others. 

The treatises of Albucasis, Avenzoar, and Aben- 
Bithar, all three of them natives of Spain, are also 
reproductions, more or less faithful, of the writings 
of Galen, of Aaron, and of the Alexandrine physicians, 
reproductions made from Syriac translations. 

Maimonides, wrongly considered as an Arab 
doctor, was a Jew bom at Cordova in 1135. Of a 
scientific mind, and indifferent to Musulman dogma, 
he drew upon himself the persecutions of the Almo- 
hades, and had to take refuge in Egypt. His 
Aphorisms of Medicine were translated into Latin in 
1409 ; his treatise on the preservation and regulation 
of health in 1518. It was through them that Greek 
medical science was known in the Middle Ages. 

The Arabs have especially excelled in directions 
that do not call for great powers of imagination, 
notably in history and geography. The Syrian 
and Persian writers supplied them with abundant 
materials from which they drew without displaying 
any remarkable critical faculty. This resulted in 
compilations, often crude, such as the works of 
Masoudi (956) : Akhbar and Zeman, history of the 
time; Kitah Aousat, the midway book; Moroudj-ed- 
Dheheh oua Maadin-el-Djewahir, the fields of gold 
and the mines of precious stones. Such is also the 
work of Ebn-el-Athir : Kemal dl Taouarikh, the 
complete chronicle, beginning with the creation of 
the world and ending at the year a.d. 1281. 

As much might be said of the abridged history of 
Aboulfeda, the prince diplomat and warrior, who 
sought relaxation from the anxieties of power in 



writing a sort of universal history, of which the first 
part comprises the patriarchs, the judges, and the 
kings of Israel ; the second, the four dynasties of the 
ancient kings of Persia; the third, the Pharaohs 
of Egypt, the kings of Greece, and the Roman 
Emperors; the fourth, the kings of Arabia before 
Mahomet; the fifth, the history of various nations, 
such as the Syrians, the Sabeans, the Copts, the 
Persians, etc., and the events that happened since the 
death of Mahomet up to a.d. 1328 . This work is 
only original so far as Arab history is concerned. 
The same remark applies to the Universal History of 
the Syrian Aboulfaradj ( 1226 - 1286 ). 

Borhan-ed-Din Motarezzi ( 1145 - 1235 ) collected a 
great number of Arab traditions, affording some 
curious references to pre-Islamic manners. Of the 
same genre is Nowairi’s Historic Encyclopaedia of the 
Arabs, and the History of the Arab Conquest of 
the Peninsula, by Ebn-el-Kouthiah, and Tabari’s 
Arab History, all original works containing valuable 
information . 1 

A place apart should be accorded to Ibn-Khaldoun 
( 1332 - 1406 ), whose Annals contain the history of the 
Arabs up to the end of the fourteenth century, and 
that of the Berbers. He is one of the few Musulman 
writers who is not content with merely compiling 
from previous documents. 

He deals first with historical criticism and its 
methods; then he studies the community and its 
origin ; gives a succinct description of the globe, and 
examines the influence which diversity of climate may 
exert upon man ; he then goes into the causes of the 
development and decadence of States, among nomadic 
peoples and in the midst of large concentrations of 

1 Silvestre de Sacy, “ Anth'ologie Arabe,” 



population. He treats of work in general, enumerat- 
ing the various professions, and finishes with a , 
classification of the sciences. He was born at Tunis, 
and was of Spanish origin/ 

In geography, the Arabs have left some works of 
indisputable originality. Their conquests, the obliga- 
tion upon them to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, and 
their commercial travels enabled them to make the 
acquaintance of regions unknown to the Greeks. 
Their highly developed faculty of observation led 
them to record valuable information. They gave a 
faithful transcript of reality ; the greater part of their 
accounts are strictly accurate : s such, for instance, as 
those of Ibn-Batuta, of Ibn-Djobeir, of Ibn-Haukal, 
of Ibn-Khordadbeg, of Aboul-Feda, of Istakhri, of 
Bekri, and of Edrisi. 

In philosophy, the Arabs, incapable of conceiving 
any system of their own, adopted those of Greece, of 
Persia, and of India. It was chiefly through works 
of the Alexandrine school that they were initiated 
into this branch of science. The Ptolemies, by their 
princely liberality, had drawn to this great city 
numbers of learned men from all parts of the then- 
known civilized world, notably from Greece, from 
Syria, and from Persia. These savants, whose works 
extend from the third to the end of the fifth century, 
were well acquainted with the various hypotheses to 
which the human brain had given birth. Thanks to 
them, Oriental and Greek philosophy — two absolutely 
different conceptions — were fused together . 3 

Oriental philosophy, represented by Jewish and 
Christian doctrines, was steeped in a mysticism of 
which we should have to seek the origin in the 

1 tSedillot, “ Hist, des Arabes,” 

3 Beinaiid, “ Introd. k la geogr. d'Abulfeda.” 

3 Matter^ “ Hist, de TEcole d’ Alexandria.” 



religious beliefs of India. Musulman Sufism, which 
came into existence about the second century of the 
Hegira, seems to derive from Buddhism, and did, as 
a matter of fact, come from India. Man purified by 
meditation, trance, and the strict observance of 
certain rules, could raise himself to the divinity and 
become identified therewith. It was Sufism that 
inspired the founders of the various religious brother- 
hoods of Islam, which are so many manifestations of 
Oriental mysticism. 

Greek philosophy, on the contrary, founded upon 
reason and logic, is divided into two leading con- 
ceptions : the peripateticism of Aristotle and the 
spiritualism of Plato. It was the Platonic theories 
that served as the link or bond of union between Greek 
realism and Oriental mysticism . 1 

Peripateticism was introduced into Alexandria 
about the second century a.d., by Alexander of 
Aphrodisias ; but, under the influence of Jewish and 
Christian doctrine, the pure fount of Aristotle was 
somewhat diverted and defiled. Ammonius Saccas, 
Plotinus, Porphyrius, Themistius, Syrianus, David 
the Armenian, Simplicius, John Philopon, Jam- 
blichus, were the more or less faithful disciples of 
Aristotle from whom the Arabs derived their inspira- 
tion. The latter knew the works of these authors 
through the versions and commentaries of the Copts ; 
but they were never in possession of the original 
works of Aristotle . 2 

It was under such circumstances that the treatises 
of Honani and of Yahia the grammarian, upon 
Aristotle, and those of Alkendi, Alfarabi, Avicenna, 
and Avenpace upon Plato, were written. 

1 Michel Nicolas, “ Etudes sur Philon d’ Alexandria ” 
Fertilise, “La philosophic d© Platon*” 

A Jnles Simon, “Hist* do I’EcoIq d’ Alexandria*” 




The Arabs also knew, through the medium of the 
commentators of the Alexandrine school , 1 the tradi- 
tions relating to the Seven Sages and to the minor 
philosophers; but they copied more especially the 
works of the successors to Aristotle, particularly 
those of Themistius, of Alexander Aphrodisias, of 
Ammonius Saccas, and of Porphyrius . 2 Plotinus and 
Proclus were held in great esteem among them. The 
discourses of Apollonius of Thyana, of Plutarch, and 
of Valentinian were familiar to them. They adopted 
the ideas of these authors, often distorting them, 
either because they did not understand them, or 
because they wished to make them fall in with Musul- 
man dogma ; but they added nothing that could be 
accepted as original. 

One of the latest and most celebrated Arab 
philosophers, Averrhoes, wrote commentaries upon 
Aristotle, with extracts, that made his reputation at 
a tijme when the works of the Greek philosophers 
were unknown. The system known in the Middle 
Ages and at the Renaissance by the name of Averrho- 
ism has nothing original about it. It is merely a 
resume of doctrines common to the Arab peripa- 
teticians, and borrowed by them from writers of the 
Alexandrine school. But Averrhoes had the luck of 
the last comer, and was considered as the inventor of 
doctrines which he had only set out in more complete 
form . 3 As Averrhoes knew no Greek, he knew the 
writings of Aristotle only through Arabic versions 
made from Syriac and Coptic translations. 

Avicenna, who brought out an Encyclopedia of 
philosophic science, compiled the works of the Greek 
peripateticians, and of the Oriental philosophers, 
from Arabic translations of Syriac versions . 4 

1 Vacherot, “ Hist, critique de FEcole d* Alexandria.” 

3 Ravaison, 11 Essai sur la m^taphysique cFAristote.” 

3 Renan, 1 c Averrhoes et FAverrlioisme.” 

4 Mehrens, u La philosopliie d'Avicenne.” 



Oriental philosophy, the mysticism of the Sufis, 
found its most celebrated interpreter in A1 Ghazzali 
(1058), who borrowed his doctrines from the Jewish 
and Christian mystics of the School of Alexandria. 1 
Whilst recognizing, with Aristotle, the sacred rights 
of reason, A1 Ghazzali held that “ the truths estab- 
lished by reason are not the only ones, that there are 
others to which our understanding is not capable of 
reaching, that force us to accept them, although we 
cannot deduce them by the aid of logic from known 
principles ; that there is nothing unreasonable in the 
supposition that above the sphere of reason there is 
another sphere, that of divine manifestation, and 
that, although we may be completely ignorant of its 
laws and its methods, it is sufficient that reason should 
be able to admit its possibility.” 

This is the door open to dreams and wanderings 
of the spirit. Oriental mysticism was not long in 
supplanting Greek logic, and the Musulman fanatics 
received with favour the theories of A1 Ghazzali, who 
became the philosopher of orthodoxy. One of his 
writings, Vilification of the sciences of religion, had 
such celebrity that it gained him the title of Hojiet- 
el-Islam, the proof of Islamism. 

Between these two philosophical tendencies : the 
logic of Aristotle and Oriental mysticism, a crowd of 
secondary influences may be discerned — Byzantine, 
Egyptian, Persian, or Indian. Each of the subjected 
nations in turn gave up to the conqueror a portion of 
its conceptions. The Arab, incapable of drawing 
anything from his own inner depths, copied, adapted, 
imitated, and distorted. It is in these foreign 
influences that must be sought the origin of the 
religious sects that divided Islam. These sects came 

1 Ihigat, 1 Hist, des philosophies ot dps theologians in usulmans. ’ * 



into being wherever the Arab spirit, coming into 
collision with other religious conceptions, brought 
about a sort of fusion of doctrines. 

Finally, there is not, properly speaking, any Arab 
philosophy ; there are adaptations to the Arab spirit, 
to the Arab mentality, of Greek, Alexandrine, and 
Oriental philosophic doctrines ; from these adapta- 
tions philosophy has gained nothing ; its equipment of 
knowledge has not been increased ; its horizon has not 
been extended. The Arabs have left the doctrines 
of Aristotle and of the Jewish and Christian philoso- 
phers just as they were transmitted to them. They 
have copied, but they have neither invented nor 

It is curious to note that the ablest grammarians, 
those who have best explained the mechanism and 
the spirit of the Arabian tongue, are Islamized 
foreigners, Persians, Syrians, or Egyptians. 1 Siba- 
waih, Farezi, Zedjadj, Zamakschari are Persian 
converts. The lexicographers, Ismai'1 ben Hammad 
Djewhri and Firouzabadi are also Persians. 

Among the rhetoricians and philologists the 
majority are either Persians or Syrians, such as 
Ebn-el-Sekaki, who has been compared with 
Quintilian for clearness and with Cicero for the 
richness of his style; 2 or A1 Soiouthi, who treats of 
the purity, the elegance, and the vigour of the Arab 
language, and joining example to precept, quotes 
passages from the most esteemed authors as witnesses 
in support of his dicta. 

It is only fair to recognize that the Arabs have 
produced quite a number of remarkable grammarians. 
The Arab mind, particularly w r ell adapted to compil- 
ation, to minute analysis and to commentaries which 

1 Silvestre de Bacy, (e Chrestorn abide nrabe,” 

3 SecliUot, “ Hist, des Arabes,” 



caJl for little imaginative effort, has found a congenial 
field in grammatical study. 

Treatises both in prose and in verse abound ; and 
all are crammed with quotations, for the proper 
appreciation of which it would be necessary to know 
a crowd of writers whose works have not come down 
to us. 

In literature properly so called, in the literature 
of imagination, even more than in the sciences, 
•the poverty of invention of the Arabs and the 
barrenness of their minds is made apparent. The 
only original productions of Arab genius are the 

From the remotest ages there have been poets in 
Arabia, a sort of troubadours, who went from tribe 
to tribe, from market to market, reciting their verses . 1 
In those days the most important market was that 
of Okadh, in the Hedjaz. The poets used to come 
there to display their talent ; there they held literary 
tourneys, and the poem that was adjudged the best 
was inscribed in letters of gold and hung up in the 
temple of the Kaaba. It was this practice that 
gave the name Modhahhabat (gilded), or Moallakat 
(suspended, or more probably, considered as having 
a great value, from the root, allaka). 

The subject, the form and the rhythm are 
invariably the same. Those that have come down 
to us, the Moallakat of Imroulkais, of Tarafa, of 
Nabiga and of Amr ibn Kholtoun are compositions 
of a hundred lines each. The author celebrates his 
native country and his sweetheart; he bewails his 
distant separation from them ; then he boasts of his 
own exploits, praises his horse, his arms, and turns 
his enemies into ridicule. They are exact pictures of 
1 Larroque, “ Voyage dans 5a Palestine,” 



the nomad, warlike life of the Bedouins before 
Mahomet’s time. Their literary value is about equal 
to that of the ballads of our own trouveres. 1 

Then there are some songs collected in the Kitab 
el Aghani, belonging to a period a little later than 
the Moallakat : the complaints of a lover separated 
from his mistress, or rejected by her; the martial 
strains of a warrior ; clamourings for vengeance ; the 
glorification of a tribe, or of a feat of arms ; insults 
addressed to an enemy. These little pieces recall our 
own ballads of the Middle Ages. This is about all 
that can be attributed to Arab genius, to its personal 

Immediately after the death of Mahomet, when 
the Arabs were precipitated by their conquests into 
the midst of peoples more civilized and more refined 
than themselves, their literature was not long in 
showing the effect of foreign influence. In contact 
with Byzantines and Persians, the poets, like the 
warriors, became more effeminate. They sang no 
longer of battles or of vengeance ; they changed them- 
selves into courtiers, and sang the praises of the Caliph 
and of influential personages from whom they hoped 
to receive favours and presents. To please the all- 
powerful master, who lived in the style of a King of 
Persia or of a Byzantine Emperor, in the midst of 
luxury and pleasure, they sang of good cheer, of wine 
and the love of women. As these subjects lack 
variety, they endeavoured to brighten them up by a 
studied refinement of expression, by virtuosity of 
style, by the use of archaic and erudite expressions, 
by flashes of wit and the play upon words. 

Such was Arab literature in the time of the 
Ommeyads and of the earlier Abbassides, when 
* Caussin do Perceval} “ Hist, des Ar&bes avant Plslamismo,” 


Motanebbi, Ibn Doreid, Abu l’Oli, and Omar Ibn 
Fara dh were its principal representatives. 

From the time of the Caliphates of Haroun-al- 
Raschid and El Mamoun, when the Arabs were 
initiated into Greek scientific knowledge through 
Syriac and Arabic translations of the works of 
antiquity, their literature became exclusively didactic. 
Their poets composed in verse treatises on grammar, 
on prosody, on astronomy, on mathematics and on 
jurisprudence. These efforts have no more original 
value than the prose works of their scientific writers. 
They are compilations made from Syriac versions; 
and this literature, which embraces several centuries, 
reveals the poverty of the Arab spirit and its power- 
lessness to draw forth anything from its own inner 

Fable and allegory occupy an important place 
in this literature. Here again the Arabs merely 
reproduce the compositions of India, Persia and 
Greece, adapting them to their own mentality and 
the dogma of Islam. Calila and Dimla is a trans- 
lation from the Persian; the fables of Lokman are 
copied from those of India and Greece; they were 
very probably compiled by a Christian of Syria. 

The few Arab romances that have come down to 
us are likewise of foreign inspiration. The elements 
of intrigue and of the supernatural in the Thousand 
and One Nights are borrowed from the Persian; 
only the scenes of Arab life are original, and they 
are realistic representations without imaginative 
embellishment . 1 The same may be said of the 
Romance of Antar, a sort of prose epic depicting the 
warlike life of the Bedouins. 

Epic and dramatic poetry, which depend upon 

* Poz^ a Hi$t. d’Espagne,” 



high imaginative gifts, do not exist among the Arabs, 
a further proof of their poverty of imagination. 

There was in Arab literature one incompar- 
able period : the Andalusian period. Under the 
Ommeyads of Spain, the Arab language was 
used to express original thought, a thing that had 
never happened to it before. Richness of invention, 
abundance of natural feeling, freshness of expression, 
fine and delicate ideas, such are the characteristics of 
the poems of this epoch. Unfortunately, they are 
not of Arab but of Latin inspiration. The greater 
part of these poems were composed by Islamized 
Andalusians, that is to say, by pure Latins ; the rest 
by Arabs born in Spain who had received Latin 
culture. We can see the Latin genius shining 
through their productions ; we find in them impulses 
of imagination, feelings expressed with a grace and 
delicacy unknown to the best Arab writers. As a 
historian has remarked : 1 at the bottom of their heart 
there always remains something pure, delicate and 
spiritual that is not Arab. 

In modern times, Arab literature has remained 
sterile; since the later Abbasside Caliphs it has 
produced no work worthy of remark ; it has lived and 
still lives on its past. 

In the schools, otherwise exclusively religious, 
they continue to read the Koran and the com- 
mentators thereon, as well as the old works on 
jurisprudence and grammar; but no educated Arab 
appears to be capable of producing a new work. So, 
then, the Musulman community, fixed in the con- 
templation of the past, feels no need to think other- 
wise than did the generations that have preceded it. 
Islam, a secretion of the Arab brain, has paralysed 

1 Dozy, op. cif> 


their minds and has set up an impassable barrier 
between the Musulman and the rest of the world. 

In the fine arts, the Arabs have shown no more 
originality than in science and letters; in sculpture 
and painting their nullity is absolute. 1 A reason for 
this inferiority has been sought in the religious law 
which forbids the representation of living things. 
But the Koran only expresses this prohibition in one 
single passage, and even there in somewhat vague 
terms : “ 0 believers, wine, games of chance, statues , 
and the drawing of lots are abominations invented by 
Satan. Abstain from these and you shall be happy. ’ ’ 2 
It is almost certain that by the word statues the 
Koran meant representations of the pagan divinities, 
that is, idols. It is the old commandment of the 
Decalogue : “ Thou shalt not make to thyself any 
graven image . . . thou shalt not worship them.” 
Mahomet never dreamt of forbidding the artistic 
imitation of living things in painting and sculpture. 
In the Arab text, the word statue is rendered by 
ansab, the plural of nasb, a word that means a carved 
stone in a place consecrated to a protecting divinity. 
In another passage in the Koran the word nasb is 
used to mean altar. That is just the meaning it has 
in the passage we are dealing with. It is, therefore, 
by an error of interpretation that the commentators 
have extended this word to include statues and the 
representations of living things. This narrow inter- 
pretation has not been accepted by all Musulmans. 
Both in Persia and in India forms of living things are 
often found in the arabesques. Makrizi records that 
Maowiah Caused himself to be represented on the 
coinage girt with a sword. 3 

1 Vrism (PAvesne, u L’art arabe.’* 

2 Koran, Gh. V, v. 92. 

3 Makrizi, <{ Moimaies ^ms^llInan6^/ , trad, de Silvestre de Sacy; 
Victor Langloisj f< Numismatique des Arabes avant 1’Islaimsme,’’ 


It is only fair to point out that poetry has been 
far worse treated in the Koran than sculpture; and 
yet that has not hindered the Arabs from cultivating 
it : “ Shall I tell you,” we read in the revealed Book, 
“ which are the men upon whom the demons descend 
and whom they inspire. They descend upon every 
liar taken in the act and teaching what their ears have 
picked up. But, the greater part lie. These are the 
poets whom erring men follow in their turn. Do 
you not see that they follow all roads like madmen, 
that they say what they do not do? 9,1 

But poetry has continued to blossom in spite of 
the maledictions of the Prophet. It is not, therefore, 
unreasonable to suppose that if sculpture and painting 
have not been developed, it is because the Arabs have 
no aptitude for them. A further proof lies in the 
fact that they did not practise these arts in the days 
before Islam, when they must have been cognisant 
of them through their relations with Romans, Greeks, 
Egyptians and Persians. Their artistic nullity must, 
therefore, be attributed, not to the religious law, but 
to their national inaptitude. The religious law is 
nothing but the expression of the Arab spirit, and so 
it has treated with disdain what the Arab despises as 
being beyond his powers. 

In architecture, there is no sign of Arab origin- 
ality . 2 The nomadic Bedouin never troubled about 
it, for he lived in a tent. In towns like Mecca and 
Medina, the architecture was of a primitive character, 
with mud walls and roofs of palm leaves. The 
famous temple of the Kaaba was merely a modest 
enclosure of stone and sun-dried mud bricks. The 
first mosque that Mahomet built at Medina, after his 

i Koran, Ch. XXVII, v. 221, 

3 G-ayet ? a L’art 


flight from Mecca, was a very humble construction 
in sun-dried brick. 1 

The Arabs only became acquainted with archi- 
tecture when they left their native country; in 
Syria and Persia they saw Byzantine and Persian 
monuments, in both cases inspired by Greek art. 2 
The Greeks were the great initiators of the East in 
architectural matters ; it was they who constructed 
the greater number of the palaces of the kings of 
Persia, and it was from them, finally, that the Arabs 
drew their inspiration. The dome, so wide-spread 
in Musulman countries, is of Persian origin; it was 
adopted by the Greeks, and then by the Byzantines. 
Syrian architects, combining Greek art with that of 
Persia, have contributed to the creation-of what has 
come to be called Byzantine art. It was the Syrian, 
Anthemios of Tralles, who drew the plans of Santa 
Sophia (532-537), in which we find all the character- 
istics of the art wrongly attributed to the Arabs : the 
dome, lacework in stone, mosaics, coloured tiles, and 
“ arabesques.” But the dome had long been in use 
in Persia, as is proved by the dome of the Hall 
of Audience of Chosroes I., and that of the palace 
of Machita, built by Chosroes II. It was Persia that 
invented the arch ; all the domed and arched work 
in the world sprang from Persia. The dome and the 
arch were known in Rome from the first century ; the 
most ancient examples of them are to be found at 
Tivoli, in Hadrian’s villa, and also in the Baths of 
Caracalla, in Rome. 

Those mural decorations, which were afterwards 
called Arabesques, had their origin in Greece and 
Egypt. The immense halls with ceiling supported 

1 Bourgoin, “ Precis de Part arabe,” 

2 Bayet, “ L’art Byzantin,’' 



by a forest of columns are equally of Greek origin. 
The great Mosque at Cordova, and the Alhambra at 
Granada are the products of Greco-Latin art, like 
the embossing and the cut-plaster-work of their walls 
and ceilings . 1 

It was long believed that our mediaeval artists 
had come under the influence of Arab art. We 
now know that this was not the case, not only 
because there was no such thing as Arab art, properly 
speaking, but also because it was not through the 
intervention of the Arabs that Oriental art was 
introduced into France. The numerous objects 
found in church treasuries, and which have been 
wrongly attributed to the Arabs, in reality owe 
nothing to them; such as still remain have been 
identified and leave no possibility of doubt in this 
respect. For example, a piece of ivory representing 
an Eastern King squatting on an elephant, is a 
chessman of Hindu workmanship; the bowls are 
Persian ; the sword of Charlemagne, preserved in the 
Louvre, is of Persian workmanship. The precious 
materials used to wrap up relics, such as the shroud 
of Saint Victor or that of Saint Siviard, at Sens, are 
Persian fabrics ; another, decorated with a frieze of 
elephants, which may be found at the Louvre comes 
from India. It was Persian art that the Crusades 
brought to us, the art of the period of the Sassanian 
kings, that is to say, of an epoch of Persian reaction 
against the Arabs. 

But Oriental art was introduced into France well 
before the Arab invasion, and indeed before the 
Crusades, by the Greeks and Syrians who were to 
be found trading to Narbonne, to Bordeaux, to 

1 Kondakof, “ Hist, de L’art Byzantin.” 


Lyons, and even as far as Metz, in the time of the 
Merovingians . 1 

In the fifth and sixth centuries, France came 
under the influence of Byzantine art. Sculpture in 
low relief, arabesques, and the sculptured lace work 
which were in fashion in the sixth century, came 
from Persia and from Syria ; their origin goes back to 
the Assyrian and Egyptian artists. 

The discoveries of Foucher at Gandhara have 
made known that it was the Greeks who followed in 
Alexander’s train who taught Asia the principles of 
bas relief. 

In music, the Ax-abs have shown the same nullity 
as in other branches of the fine arts. In a general 
way, the Musuhnans considered it as a mercenary 
art, putting it in the same class as dancing . 2 Ibn- 
Khaldoun, in his Prolegomena, speaks of it with a 
certain contempt: “We know,” he says, “that 
Maowiah reproached his son Yezid severely for being 
so fond of vocal music, and that he forbade him to 
indulge in it.” And in another passage : “ One day, 
I reproached an Emir of royal birth for his eagerness 
to learn music, and I said to him : 

“ 4 That is not your business and does not become 
your dignity.’ 

44 4 How is that? ’ he replied. 4 Don’t you know 
that Ibrahim the son of El Mahdi (the third Abbas- 
side Caliph), excelled in this art, and was the first 
singer of his day? ’ 

“ 4 By Allah ! ’ I answered him. 4 Why do you 
not rather take his father as your model, or his 
brother? Don’t you know that this passion caused 
Ibrahim to fall below the rank held by his family? ’ ’” 

1 Louis Gillet, “ Hist, des arts. 3 ’ 
a Salvador Daniel, “ La musique arabe/ 3 



The song and the dance wei’e held in but light 
esteem in both Rome and Greece ; and, as the Arabs 
imitated the fashions of Greco-Latin civilization, it 
is not impossible that they adopted its prejudices 
against music . 1 

Throughout Musulman history the constant 
operation of two conflicting influences may be noted. 
On the one hand it is the influence of foreign nations 
hastily converted to Islam, the Syrians, Persians, 
Hindus, Egyptians, and Andalusians who tend to 
introduce their foreign civilization into Islam. At 
the periods when this influence is preponderant, 
there is a great expansion of culture, with the 
Arabs standing, as it were, outside, and which is 
accomplished in spite of them. 

On the other hand, there is the influence exercised 
by Arab elements, hostile to all progress, to any 
innovation. Incapable of conceiving any better 
state, the Arab intends to remain as he is, a shepherd, 
a soldier or a wanderer. Other nations are urging 
him to civilization, he resists them with all his forces 
— with the inertia of his apathy, his ignorance 
and his intellectual paralysis. When he is in the 
ascendant, he arrests all forward movement; gradu- 
ally, by means of his religion, he introduces his 
mentality and his conceptions into the manners and 
customs of the subject peoples ; and in the course of 
a few generations he succeeds in afflicting them with 
his own paralysis and stagnation. 

These two influences have opposed each other for 
centuries, with varying fortunes. In the end, the 
Arab influence, supported by material force, has 
carried the day, to the ruin of all civilization. 

'^Yacoub Artin Pasha, “ L* instruction publique en Egypte. ,J 


The psychology of the Musulman — Steadfast faith in his 
intellectual superiority — Contempt and horror of what 
is not Musulman — The world divided into two parts : 
believers and infidels — Everything that proceeds from 
infidels is detestable — The Musulman escapes all propa- 
ganda — By mental reservation he even escapes violence 
— Check to the attempts to introduce Western civilization 
into the Musulman world — Averrhoes . 

F ROM the point at which we have arrived in this 
essay, it is not impossible to understand and 
to explain the psychology of the Arab, and 
consequently of the Musulman. For the 
Musulman, whoever he may be, subjected for 
centuries to the religious law, in itself an expression 
of the Arab mind, has received so deep an impression 
from it as to have become totally Arabized. To 
understand the psychology of the Arab, the 
mechanism of his brain, is by the same token to 
account for the psychology of any given Musulman. 
The African Berber thinks on the same lines, and acts 
on the same lines as the Syrian, the Turk, the 
Persian, the Cossack, or the native of Java. All 
these people being Islamized think and behave as the 
Arab does. 

The religious law, of Arab inspiration, that has 
been imposed upon the Musulman world, has had 
the effect of imparting to the very diverse individuals 
of whom that world is composed, a unity of thought, 
of feeling, of conceptions and of judgment. The 
scale that has served to measure this thought, these 




feelings, etc., is an Arab scale; and consequently the 
minds of all Musulmans have been levelled down to 
the stature of the Arab mind. 

The chief characteristic of the Arab, and therefore 
of the Musulman, is a fixed belief in his own intel- 
lectual superiority. Incapable as he is, through the 
barrenness of his mind and the poverty of his 
imagination, of conceiving any other condition than 
his own, any other mode of thought, he firmly 
believes that he has arrived at an unequalled pitch of 
perfection ; that he is the sole possessor of the true 
faith, of the true doctrine, the true wisdom ; that he 
alone is in possession of the truth, no relative truth 
subject to revision, but truth intangible, imperfectible 
— absolute Truth. As an example of this pretentious 
claim, we may quote one of the most influential 
members of the Committee of Union and Progress, 
Sheik Abd-ul-Hack, a civilized Young Turk ; writing 
a few years ago in a Musulman review, published in 
Paris, he said : 44 Yes ! the Musulman religion is in 
open hostility to all your world of progress. Under- 
stand, you European observers, that a Christian, 
whatever his position may be, by the mere fact of his 
being a Christian is regarded by us as a blind man 
lost to all sense of human dignity. Our reasoning 
with regard to him is as simple as it is definitive. 
We say : the man whose judgment is so perverted as 
to deny the existence of a one and only God, and 
to make up gods of different sorts, can only be the 
meanest expression of human degradation; to speak 
to him would be a humiliation for our intelligence 
and an insult to the grandeur of the Master of the 
Universe. The presence of such miscreants among 
us is the bane of our existence; their doctrine is a 
direct insult to the purity of our faith ; contact with 




them is a defilement of our bodies ; any relation with 
them a torture to our souls. Though detesting you, 
we have condescended to study your political institu- 
tions and your military organization. Over and 
above the new weapons that Providence procures 
for us through your agency, you have yourselves 
rekindled the inextinguishable faith of our heroic 
martyrs. Our Young Turks, our Babis, our new 
Brotherhoods, all our sects, under various forms, are 
inspired by the same idea, the same necessity of 
moving forward. Towards what end? Christian 
civilization? Never! Islam is one great inter- 
national f amity. All true believers are brothers. 
A community of feeling and of faith binds them in 
mutual affection. It is for the Caliph to facilitate 
these relations and to rally the Faithful under the 
sacerdotal standard .” 1 

Convinced that he is the elect of God (Moustafa), 
assured that his people is the one nation chosen 
among all others by the divinity, the Musulman has 
the certitude of being the only one called to enjoy 
the celestial rewards. And so, for those who do 
not think as he does, for the wanderers who do not 
follow the straight way, he feels a pity made up of 
contempt for their intellectual inferiority, of horror 
for their decadence, and of compassion for the 
frightful future of punishment that awaits them. 

This conviction, which nothing can weaken, 
inspires the Musulman with an inalienable attach- 
ment to his traditions. Outside Islam there can be 
no safety; outside its law, no truth, no happiness. 
The evolution of foreign nations, the increasing 
accumulations of their knowledge, scientific progress, 

1 This declaration appeared in Ze Meeker outtiete , a review edited 
by Sherif Pasha, Paris, August, 1912. 



the improvements effected by human effort in 
material well-being leave him indifferent. He is the 
Believer, par excellence, the superior, the perfect 

This conception, as has been truly remarked, 1 
divides the world into two parts : Believers and 
Infidels. The Believer is in a state of perpetual war 
with the Infidel, and this right, this duty of eternal 
war can only be suspended : “ Make war,” says the 
Holy Book, “ on those who believe neither in God 
nor in the last judgment, who do not regard as for- 
bidden what God and his Prophet have forbidden, on 
those who do not profess the true religion, until they, 
humbled in spirit, shall pay tribute with their own 

The Musulman, convinced of his own superiority, 
will not suffer any teaching. As typical of his mode 
of reasoning, we may quote the words of a Young 
Tunisian, Bechir Sfar : “ The North of Africa is 
inhabited by an amalgam of peoples who claim 
descent from a celebrated race, the Arab race, and 
who profess a religion of unity, the Musulman 
religion. Now, this race and this religion conquered 
and colonized an empire more vast than the Roman 
Empire. The North Africans alone have to their 
credit sixty years of domination in the South of 
France, eight centuries in Spain, and three cen- 
turies in Sicily. . . . This slight digression is made 
with the object of recalling to those who might 
be tempted to forget it that we belong to a race, to 
a religion, and to a civilization equal in historical 
glory and in the force of assimilation to any other 
race whatever, to any other religion or civilization 
of ancient or modern peoples.” 2 

1 Snotiok Hurgronje, “ Musulman Law.” 

2 Bechir Sfar, u Les Habous en Tunisia.” 


Intellectually, the Musulman is, nevertheless, a 
paralytic; his brain, subjected in the course of 
centuries to the rough discipline of Islam, is closed 
to all that has not been foreseen, announced and 
specified by the religious law. He is, therefore, 
systematically hostile to all novelty, to all modifi- 
cation, to all innovation. 

Whatever exists has been created by the will of 
the Almighty. It is not for man to modify His 
work. If God had wished that what exists should 
be different, he would have made it so, irrespective 
of all human volition. To act is thus, to some 
extent, to misunderstand the divine decisions, to 
wish to substitute human desires for them, to commit 
an act of insubordination. Such a conception puts 
all progress out of the question; and, in fact, 
immobility is the essential characteristic of every 
Musulman community. 

As has been remarked, “ the Musulman, remain- 
ing faithful to his religion, has not progressed; he 
has remained stationary in a world of swiftly moving 
modern forces. It is, indeed, one of the salient 
features of Islamism that it immobilizes in their 
native barbarism the races whom it enslaves. It is 
fixed in a crystallization inert and impenetrable. It 
is unchangeable ; and political, social or economic 
changes have no repercussion upon it .” 1 

Renan has shown that the Semites were incapable 
of rising to the conception of a general idea. A 
Musulman would willingly associate with Europe ans 
in Christian anti-clericalism, but he would never 
tolerate the least attempt against his own belief. 
One instance, among a hundred others, may be 
given of this assertion : Some years ago there met at 

1 Besson., “ La legislation civile de PAlgene.” 



Algiers an Oriental Congress, at which European, 
Egyptian and Turkish savants were present. They 
dealt first with biblical exegesis. Certain linguists 
sought to prove that several passages in the Old 
Testament were apochryphal and that they had 
consequently no historic value. Nobody protested. 
But, when these same savants wished to exercise 
their erudition and their critical powers upon the 
Koran, their Musulman colleagues protested with the 
most lively indignation against what they considered 
as sacrilege. The discussion became so heated that 
the Governor-General had to intervene. 

As has been seen, the Musulman escapes from all 
propaganda ; he even escapes from violence, because 
Islam authorizes him to bow for the time before 
superior force, when circumstances require it. The 
religious law in no way imposes upon him an attitude 
which might expose him to danger or to reprisals. 
It even permits him, in case of extreme peril, to 
transgress the dogmas. The commentators on the 
Koran quote numerous examples of this liberty : 
Ammar Ben Yasir was excused by the Prophet 
himself for outwardly praising pagan gods and 
insulting Mahomet, at a time when in his heart he 
was firmly attached to the Musulman religion. This 
procedure was admitted by the earlier doctors of the 
Law. Afterwards, it was recommended to employ 
ambiguous expressions as far as possible, words 
of double meaning, to give less force to these 
denials. The practice was called taqiyyah, after 
a passage in the Koran . 1 It was used by the 
Shiites in their constant propaganda against the 

We even find taqiyyah used to satisfy private 
1 Oh. in, v. 27. 


interests, in oaths for instance ; it consists in the use 
of words with a double meaning or in mental 
reservation . 1 The Musulman may, therefore, bend 
to foreign authority when he is not strong enough 
to resist; he may even make terms with it, and 
accept titles and favours; but, as soon as he feels 
himself in a position to revolt, he should immediately 
do so; it is an imperative duty. 

In the twelfth century, Averrhoes wanted to 
Islamize Greek knowledge, in order to incorporate it 
into Islam. He was looked upon as an ungodly man 
and was persecuted . 2 In modern times, the same 
attempts have been made from time to time, and 
have ended in the same failure. It is not without 
profit to dwell upon these efforts, as they explain the 
poverty of the results attained by the efforts of 
European nations in Musulman countries : France 
in North Africa; England in India and Egypt; 
Holland in Sumatra ; and Italy in Tripolitania. 

The various societies for social emancipation, 
Masonic Lodges, League of the Rights of Man, 
Educational League, the Positivist Society, etc., 
have, since the middle of the nineteenth century, 
multiplied their efforts to spread their liberal doctrines 
among Musulmans. They have failed in their task 
because the neophytes to whom they addressed 
themselves were not sincere. Those who seemed 
completely emancipated showed, at the touch-stone 
of events, that they had preserved their prejudices, 
their hatreds, and their Oriental mentality entire. 
A curious example may be quoted : A member of all 
the Societies of free thinkers, and notably of the 
Positivist Committee, of which he was the delegate 

1 Snouck Hurgronje, u Musulman Law,” 

2 Renan^ u Averrhoes et PAverrhoisme.” 



for Turkey, Ahmed Riza, in his newspaper Michveret, 
covered with obloquy the means of government 
employed by Abd-ul-Hamid ; he demanded liberty 
of the Press ; he proclaimed the equality of the races 
of the Empire, and the necessity of the existence of 
political parties ; in this, he spoke as a free thinker, as 
a disciple of the French Revolution. But he changed 
his note as soon as he was in power. As president of 
the Ottoman Chamber, he had no word of pity for 
the victims, no word of indignation for the assassins, 
after the massacres of Adana, when more than twenty 
thousand Armenians were done to death ; he allowed 
the new law against the Press to be voted, which 
suppressed all independence of thought in Turkey. 
In July, 1910, he silenced those liberals in the 
Chamber who demanded the abolition of the state of 
siege that had been in force since the revolution of 
the 13th April, he raised no protest against the 
executions of liberal politicians by court martial. 
In Paris, he declared himself a free thinker, but 
at Constantinople, he regularly performed the 
“namaz” (prayer) in the Chamber, so as to assure 
the religious party of his profound faith. 

More recently, in 1922-1923, the government of 
Angora furnished a fresh example of incurable 
Musulman fanaticism. This Government, which 
claims to be actuated by modern ideas, deposed the 
Sultan whom it accused of making terms with 
foreigners and of not showing himself sufficiently 
firm in defence of the interests of Islam. One of its 
members, Abeddin Bey, deputy for Logiztan, tore 
off his neck-tie in the tribune and made the assembly, 
before rising, vote the prohibition of the use of 
wearing apparel made abroad. Other deputies 
declared their determination to restore the faith to 


its primitive austerity. They demanded punishments 
for Turkish women of easy virtue who sold their 
favours to infidels. They made the wearing of the 
orthodox head-dress obligatory ; they forbade the use 
of alcohol, and even of wine ; they decreed the closing 
of the European schools. During the war against 
the Greeks, the Turkish journals called the Musulman 
soldiers : Moujahid (from Djihad, holy war), that is 
to say copibatants for the faith, soldiers of the holy 
war; and those who fell on the field of battle, Chahid, 
i.e., martyrs. 

One might multiply examples to prove that the 
Musulman is beyond the reach of foreign influences ; 
that, in spite of appearances, he preserves his peculiar 
mentality, his profound faith, his deep-rooted 
hatreds ; that he is refactory to all civilization. 

The Musulman community can neither be 
modified nor improved; it is crystallized in an 
unassailable formula ; its ideal is exclusively religious, 
or rather, it is twofold : one half religious, the other 
political — Mahdism and the Caliphate . 1 

Mahdism is the realization on earth of religious 
aspirations, through the intervention of a personage 
chosen by the divinity — the Mahdi ; it is the 
supremacy of the Islamic faith over all other 

The Caliphate is the ideal of the Islamic State, 
placed under the sceptre of a Caliph. It is the 
liberation of the Musulman peoples bowed beneath 
the infidel yoke ; it is the restoration of the defunct 
splendour of the Musulman Empire, such as it was 
under the successors of the Prophet, under the 
Ommeyads and the Abbas sides. 2 

1 Servier, “ Le Nationalism© musulman.” 

3 Montet, u Be Petat present et de Pavenir de Plslam,” 



These two forms of the Musulman ideal are not 
always in perfect accord : they sometimes clash, 
although, after all, their aim is identical, namely, the 
triumph of Islam. 

The hopes of the Caliphites centre by preference 
upon the most powerful independent Sultan, who is 
the protector and the natural champion of Islam ; at 
the present moment it is the Ottoman Sultan; but 
the office and the sentiments upon which it rests are 
always international. 

The Mahdist movements, on the contrary, are 
essentially the expression of local discontent. It is 
the Musulman form of that hatred which among all 
nations and at all times arrays the conquered against 
their conquerors. So long as Islam exists, the 
Mahdist doctrine will be the spark that may at any 
moment set ablaze the discontent of the natives. 
There is no colonial policy capable of indefinitely 
avoiding these fatal sentiments and the sudden 
troubles to which they may give rise. 

The doctrine of the Caliphate, on the other hand, 
is essentially political ; it is of a higher, more complex 
order; its conception calls for a more developed 
intellectual culture ; it is that of the Young Turks, of 
the Young Egyptians, of the Young Tunisians, of 
the Young Algerians ; and to-morrow, it will be that 
of the Young Moroccans, as soon as the instruction 
now being given in the French schools shall have 
partially civilized the natives of Morocco. At the 
outset, the Caliphate idea was religious, like every 
other manifestation of the Musulman spirit; but it 
was not long in extending its borders to embrace 
politics, and to dream of a formidable Musulman 
power, which should present itself finally as a quasi-laic 
restoration of the vanished Oriental civilization, in 


opposition to the Christian civilization of Europe. 1 
In other words, it is Musulman nationalism ; all the 
faithful of Islam forming part of one ideal country. 

The strangest part of it is that this doctrine of 
the Caliphate has borrowed its essential principles 
from Europe. At the time of the fall of Abdul- 
Hamid, the Young Turks firmly believed that they 
were reviving the French Revolution; a number of 
them were Freemasons. One of the masters to 
whom they appealed, A1 Afghani Leijed-Djemmal- 
ed-Din al-Husseini, who died in 1897, belonged to 
an Egyptian Lodge ; he was honoured by the friend- 
ship of Renan, who has devoted a eulogistic note 
to him, reproduced in his Essays. 

Ahmed Riza Bey and Dr. Nazim, two influential 
members of the C.U.P., used to belong to the 
Positivist Society of France ; but both of them 
have kept their Musulman mentality, in spite of 

Sawas Pasha, an Ottoman Christian and a liberal 
thinker, but who thinks as a Christian and not as a 
Musulman, says, in his Studies on the theory of 
Musulman Law: “ One can render not only accept- 
able to, but even compulsory on the Musulman 
conscience all progress, all truth, every legal dis- 
position, not hitherto accepted by the Mahometan 
community or inscribed in its Law.” 

Attempts to civilize the Musulmans, inspired by 
this formula, ended in failure, because they came 
into collision with a religion fiercely conservative and 
an intransigent fanaticism. It may be admitted 
that, theoretically, fanaticism is not incurable; but 
it has to be recognized nevertheless that Musulman 
fanaticism is absolutely irreducible. That is why the 

1 Rhairallah. 



effort of the Young Turk party towards progress 
was, from the outset, checked by the mass of the 
faithful, hostile to all innovation. To maintain itself 
in power, this party was obliged to deny the principles 
it had in the first instance proclaimed. 

The revolutionary idea had germinated in the 
minds of the J ewish and Christian populations subject 
to Turkey ; and it was they who prepared the move- 
ment of emancipation; but as soon as it became an 
accomplished fact and the Musulman Turks attempted 
to set up regular authority, they reverted to the 
narrow ideas of religious nationalism and fanaticism. 
The formidable insurrection in the Yemen, which 
tended to the dethronement of the Sultan of Turkey 
in favour of a Caliph of Arab race, was nothing but 
a movement of reaction against new ideas : against 
Western ideas. It may be compared to the Wahabite 
movement, and had the same object — the restoration 
of Islam to its original purity, by ridding it of 
European admixture. 

More recently, the popular movement which 
committed the actual direction of the Ottoman 
Empire to the government of Angora, was inspired 
by identical sentiments, and the first act of the 
government was to depose the Sultan on the ground 
of too great a complaisance towards foreigners. 

One of the most eminent Orientalists of the 
present day, Snouck Hurgronje, whose works have 
thrown a startling light upon the psychology of 
Musulman nations, has proved irrefutably the falsity 
of the theories of Sawas Pasha . 1 It will be useful to 
sum up his argument : 

The Creed and the Law of Islam have become in 
the course of their evolution less and less flexible ; the 

1 Snouck Hurgronje, “ Musulman Law.” 



political and social happenings of modern times afford 
ample proof of this. The question is not what we, 
with our methods of reasoning, are going to do with 
the dogmas of Islam, but rather what Islam itself, 
following its own doctrine and its own history, wishes 
to deduce from them. 

Islam would have to deny in toto its historic past 
to enter upon the path traced for it by Sawas Pasha. 
Doubtless, whether they like it or not, the Musul- 
mans have to accommodate themselves gradually to 
the manners and institutions proceeding from modern 
Europe; but it is not to be imagined that the 
juridical theory, springing from the very heart of 
Mahometan populations, which has maintained itself 
against all contrary influences, is going to yield to-day 
to any action coming from outside. Islam, as soon 
as it sees itself attacked, withdraws to its strongest 

The Musulman certainly makes some concessions 
which do not affect any religious principle : for 
instance, he accepts the railway, the telegraph, the 
steamship; but the civilization which has produced 
these things, together with its legislative principles, 
is, for all the faithful, an abomination that they will 
only tolerate under compulsion. As for the young 
men educated in French schools, they calmly super- 
pose foreign science upon their traditional faith, 
without making any attempt to reconcile the two. 

Islam forms a block of intangible traditions, of 
prejudices, of bigoted faith. The Musulman, bound 
by his religion, cannot accept Western progress. The 
two civilizations are too different, too much opposed 
ever to admit of mutual interpenetration. 


Islam in conflict with European nations — The Nationalist 
movement in Egypt — Its origin — The National Party — 
Moustafa Kamel Pasha — Mohammed Farid Bey — The 
popular party — Loufti Bey es Sayed — The party of con- 
stitutional reform — Sheikh Aly Yousef — The attitude of 
England — Egyptian Nationlist’s intrigues in North Africa. 

I N contact with Western nations, the Musulman 
has remained stationary, and has made no 
effort to adapt himself and his institutions to 
the requirements of modern times. Under 
the protection of his intransigent faith, he has not 
allowed any outside influence to affect him; on the 
contrary, his hostility towards the infidel is more 
bitter than ever. The semi-education he has received 
in European schools has only served to strengthen his 
hatred by leading him to imagine that he can do 
without foreign guidance. It is in response to this 
feeling that the Musulman Nationalist Party has been 
created, which has succeeded in setting the True 
Believer against the Infidel in every land governed or 
protected by a European State. The aim of this 
party is the re-establishment of Islamic power and the 
expulsion of the foreigner. It is a new form of 
Panislamism, and a more dangerous form, inasmuch 
as it aims at a practical object immediately realizable, 
and has realist rather than visionary tendencies. 

This movement of emancipation came to birth in 
Egypt, as a reaction against English domination. Its 




leading spirit was Moustafa Kamel Pasha, who, on 
the 22nd October, 1907, secured the unanimous 
adoption at Alexandria of the programme of the 
Egyptian National Party of which he was the leader, 
namely : £e The Egyptians for Egypt, Egypt for the 
Egyptians.” He added these words : “We are the 
despoiled, the English are the despoilers. We wish 
our country to be free, under the spiritual dominion 
of the Commander of the Faithful.” But Moustafa 
Kamel had no time to take action ; death cut him off 
on the 10th February, 1908, at the very outset of his 

This was taken up by his successor in the 
presidency of the Egyptian National Party, Moham- 
med Farid Bey, who, betaking himself to the most 
astute methods of Oriental policy, tried to secure the 
support of England’s rivals among the European 
Powers. This shows that the Young Egyptians were 
fully aware of their own incapacity to free themselves 
from foreign tutelage by their own unaided efforts. 
They set their hopes first upon France. Moustafa 
Kamel had addressed a vehement appeal to the 
Chambre des Deputes, on 4th June, 1895 ; but the 
Chamber had not thought the time propitious for 
intervention. The Young Egyptians then tried to 
create a movement of public opinion in France, where 
they found many willing to listen to them. How 
could it be otherwise : how could one distrust men 
who protested their contempt and hatred of En g lan d, 
and in the same breath claimed to regard France as 
their spiritual home? 

It was a curious spectacle and one that showed up 
the subtlety of Oriental duplicity, to see the Young 
Egyptians placing themselves under the aegis of 
France in order to intrigue against England, whilst 



the Young Tunisians and the Young Algerians 
addressed themselves to the English, at the time of 
the Fashoda affair, and to the Germans during the 
Tangier incident, in the hope of getting rid of 
France. Have we not here a proof that the Musul- 
man never has any feeling of gratitude to those who 
have tried to raise him out of his barbarism, and that 
convinced of the superiority of his own civilization, in 
spite of its decadence, he still hopes to be able to make 
it prevail once more ? 1 

Having lost all hope of any intervention by 
France, the partisans of Egyptian emancipation 
turned to Germany, who from 1900 onwards had been 
cultivating intrigues with all Musulman malcontents 
for the supposed benefit of their foreign policy. 

Moustafa Kamel and Farid Bey devoted them- 
selves especially to the education of their party, and 
to preparing the minds of their followers for the idea 
of revolt. Their plan was to make the foreigner 
unpopular, to represent him as an invader and a 
usurper, to show the legitimacy of rebellion against 
his authority, to inspire the Musulmans with proud 
confidence in their own strength by recalling Jo them 
the power of the Empire of the Caliphs. Before 
proceeding to action, it would be well to convince 
their minds of the necessity and the possibility of 
action ; this conviction once established, there might 
be some hope of realization. 

With this object, the People’s Party was founded, 
with Loufti Bey es Sayed as leader, and a simple 
programme, namely : to obtain step by step the 
maximum of liberty, up to the final expulsion of the 
foreigner ; to make use of the encouragement and the 
efforts of England to conquer her in the sequel by 

1 Lord Cromer, Report to Sir Edward Grey, Maty, 1906. 


means of the weapons which she herself would have 
forged. Education being the most efficacious arm, 
the English were to be urged to multiply schools, 
especially purely native schools ; to replace the 
European teachers by Egyptians. Later on, when 
the protected people were convinced as to their 
rights, it would only be necessary to array them 
against their protectors. 

This policy, which tends to raise ruse and dissimu- 
lation to a system of action, almost to a fine art, 
should not astonish us; for it is in exact accordance 
with the commandments of the Faith. The true 
believer is in a state of permanent war with the 
infidel, and this law, this duty of eternal war can only 
be suspended. “ Make war,” says the Holy Book, 
“ on those who do not profess the true religion, until 
they, in their humiliation, shall pay the tribute with 
their own hands.” This formula explains the atti- 
tude of the partisans of emancipation, whether in 
Egypt, in Tunis, or in Algiers. 

A third party, that of Constitutional Reform, was 
founded by Sheikh Aly Youssef, the editor of Al 
Moayad. He advocated the maintenance of the 
Khedivial authority according to the spirit of the 
Sultan’s Firmans; the creation of a national parlia- 
ment; free and general primary instruction, in the 
Arabic language, that being established as the 
official language ; and the admission of Egyptians to 
administrative appointments. 

The foundation of the reform advocated by 
Sheikh Aly Youssef is the establishment of Arabic as 
the official language for education iti the schools of 
Egypt. By this means the English teachers would 
be driven away, and the influence exercised, through 
their intermediary, by the conquering people on the 



protected people, would be suppressed. Education 
being given exclusively in Arabic, the rising genera- 
tion would be preserved from all dangerous contact 
with Western ideas. Their minds could be moulded 
into any desired form ; nationalism and religious 
fanaticism could be cultivated in them; they would 
thus become good and ardent Musulmans, with little 
instruction perhaps, but sufficiently tamed, as it 
were, to obey blindly the orders of the reformers, and 
at their bidding to hurl themselves against the English 
invaders. Finally, these trustworthy subjects, on 
leaving school, would enter into the different services 
of the administration where they would gradually 
take the place of foreigners. 

This first step taken, it would then only be 
necessary to create a Parliament, a simple matter 
since the minds of the young generation would have 
been prepared for it. A Parliament obtained, 
intrigues would be set to work with the great Powers 
who were England’s rivals, and advantage would be 
taken of troublous times, of a mutiny in India, of a 
war in Europe, of any events that would compel the 
protecting Power to direct its attention and its forces 
elsewhere, to launch the movement of rebellion and 
drive out the invader. 

England fell into this trap ; wishing to show her 
benevolence towards Egypt, she began the realization 
of part of the reforms advocated by Sheikh Aly 
Youssef. Notably in all that concerned education 
she endeavoured to make it, as far as possible, con- 
formable to the mentality, the traditions, and the 
customs of Musulman people; she set up schools for 
the exclusive use of natives, in which the instruction 
was given in Arabic. A commission composed of 
the most eminent personalities of the religious and 



political world of Egypt was entrusted with the 
translation into Arabic of the principal scholastic 
manuals of Europe, at the same time adapting them 
to the prescriptions of the Koran. The Commission 
in this way founded a library comprising treatises 
on geography, history, physics, chemistry, natural 
history, etc., drawn up in Arabic with the usual 
religious formulae. For the accomplishment of this 
imposing task the Committee made use of the works 
of the Arab savants of the Middle Ages, from which 
they borrowed the technical terms and scientific 
definitions, so that the Young Egyptian can acquire 
practical knowledge in his own vernacular. 

We know how he has shown his gratitude for this 
generous consideration : the rising generation, edu- 
cated by England, and who, without her help, would 
have remained in the depths of their ignorance, have 
arrayed themselves against her; and now, under 
the delusion that they are capable of governing 
themselves, their one idea is to shake off all foreign 

Such are the origin and the tendencies of the 
Nationalist movement in Egypt, very briefly set out. 
The theories of the promoters of the movement, 
gradually spread abroad by means of the instruction 
given in the schools set up by England, are now 
enlisting the people of Egypt against their protectors, 
and are from day to day giving rise to serious 

England, breaking away from her customary 
egoism, has done her best to extend education among 
the Egyptian people, and to develop their prosperity 
in conformity with the principles and practices of 
civilized countries. Her efforts have only led to 
negative results* 


The Young Egyptians, educated by England, at 
England’s expense, in English schools, have ranged 
themselves against her in the name of Islam, and to 
the cry of : “ Egypt for the Egyptians.” 

But, not content to work for the liberation of 
their own country, they have intrigued in Tunisia and 
Algeria, in order to create a vast movement of 
Musulman nationalism, thus proving that they are 
not, as they claim to be, Egyptian nationalists , but 
Musulman nationalists. This will cause no surprise 
if one will only bear in mind the close solidarity of 
Musulman nations, how their religion has cemented 
them into one perfectly homogeneous block, in spite 
of the diversity of races, of origins, and of customs. 
The Musulman of India differs strangely in appear- 
ance from the Bedouin of Arabia ; whilst the latter 
bears little resemblance to a Turk, an Egyptian, or 
an Algerian or Moroccan Berber ; and these in turn 
do not think or act in the same way as their 
co-religionaries in Persia, Sumatra, or China. They 
are sometimes even disunited. The Arab tribes of 
the Yemen are constantly in revolt against Ottoman 
domination ; the nomads who wander between Mecca 
and Medina do not hesitate to plunder the caravans 
of the pilgrims who repair to the Holy Cities ; the 
Algerian Kabyles treat the Arabized population with 
contempt, and these in turn detest the Djerbians and 
the Mozabites ; the Chambaas of the desert are always 
ready to hold up to ransom the peaceful inhabitants 
of the Oases. But these are intestine quarrels, differ- 
ences between people belonging to the same family ; 
but, should any foreign intervention occur, then 
immediately the brothers who were at enmity the day 
before forget their dissensions in the more urgent 
need of meeting the infidel. Islam has realized the 



absolutely extraordinary work of being able to unite 
and to bring into communion with the same ideal, 
the most diverse peoples, the most unlike in every 
way, and the most distant from one another; so 
perfectly has this solidarity been effected that any 
movement in any one point of Musulman territory 
necessarily has its repercussion on all other points. 
This is exactly the case with the intrigues of the 
Egyptian National Party. 

The inflammatory speeches of Moustafa Kamel 
Pasha and Mohammed Farid Bey, the violent cam- 
paigns of Al Mooyad, of Al Lewa, of Al Garidah, and 
of Al Minbar, the call to rebellion of Loufti Bey es 
Sayad and of the Sheikh Aly Youssef have found an 
echo in other places besides Egypt : North Africa has 
thrilled to the voice of these tribunes of Islam. 
Tunisia was the first to hear their call, which, coming 
nearer and nearer, was extended to Algeria and then 
to Morocco. So long ago as 1906, during a stormy 
sitting of the House of Commons, Sir Edward Grey, 
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, noted the 
rapid development of the nationalist movement : 
“ All this year,” said he, “ fanatical feeling has gone 
on increasing in Egypt, but it has not stopped there, 
it has spread throughout the whole of North Africa.” 

Since then, the movement has become still more 
accentuated, not only on account of the Italian 
expedition against Tripoli, which has strengthened 
the feeling of solidarity among all Musulmans, but 
more especially because of the incitements and 
intrigues of the Young Turk party, under German 

The evolution of this Party is extremely curious. 
The Young Turk revolution was organized and 
launched by a certain number of Turkish intellectuals, 



of whom the majority were Christians and Jews 
educated in the schools and colleges of Europe, who 
had derived from their Western enlightenment the 
idea of introducing progress into the Musulman world. 
It is beyond doubt that at the outset this movement 
of regeneration was inspired by liberal ideas, and that 
it did its best to copy the French Revolution, But, 
as soon as the Young Turks had obtained power, they 
came into collision with the fanaticism of the mass 
of the people; they were accused of impiety and of 
heresy, and under pressure of public opinion the non- 
Musulman elements of the revolution were swiftly 
ejected. The Ottomans who remained at the head of 
the movement hastened to make concessions to the 
people, so that the original idea of the revolution was 
completely altered. They went even further, and did 
not hesitate to make such a display of intransigent 
nationalism as gave rise to various incidents with the 
European Powers, notably with Italy . 1 The Great 
War, and the complications following from it : the 
partition of Turkey, the claims of Greece, the occupa- 
tion of new territory by England and France have 
not failed to excite to a high pitch the passions of 
the Musulmans, and to accentuate their religious 

1 Albert Fua, u Hist. of the Committee of Union and Progress .’ 7 


France’s foreign Musulman policy— We should help Turkey— 
The lessons of the Wahabite movement — In the Musulman 
world the Arab is an element of disorder, the Turk is 
an element of stability— The Arab is doomed to disappear ; 
he will be replaced by the Turk— A policy of neutrality 
towards the Arabs : of friendly support towards Turkey- 

T HE slow work of breaking up the Musulman 
block, which should form the foundation of 
our policy in North Africa, should also be 
the basis of our foreign Musulman policy. 
Islam is the enemy, not because it is a religious 
doctrine differing from our own philosophical con- 
ceptions, but because it is an obstacle to all progress, 
to all evolution. 

We should, therefore, scrupulously avoid any 
policy that could add to the power and prestige of 
those nations who are strict adherents to the doctrines 
of Islam. On the other hand we should support 
those who have only received a light impression of 
this doctrine, and whose faith is free from bigotry. 

The Turks are the least Islamized of all Musulman 

The Arabs of Arabia, on the contrary, are 
those who have received its deepest imprint. And 
naturally so, since Islam is nothing but a secretion of 
the Arab brain : the dogmatic crystallization of Arab 
thought. To support the Arabs is, therefore, to 

help to give a new lustre to Islam, that is to say, 


ISLAM 268 

to a politico-religious conception of fanaticism and 

Throughout all its stages Islam has witnessed a 
desperate struggle between the Arab tendency and 
the tendency of the non- Arab peoples, converted to 
Islam by force, who sought instinctively to recover 
their liberty. This tendency of the Arab people to 
revert to the pure doctrine of the most rigid Islam 
is illustrated in our own time by the Wahabite 

Palgrave, who had the opportunity of study- 
ing this movement on the spot, has correctly 
grasped its inspiration, its aim, and its consequences. 
“ Mohammed-ibn-Abd-el-Wahab,” he says, “ re- 
solved to consecrate the remainder of his life to the 
restoration of this primeval image of Islam, the Islam 
of Mahomet, of the Sahhabah, and now his own; 
convinced that this alone was the true, the unerring, 
the heaven-revealed path, and all beside it mere 
human superaddition. . . . With a head full of his 
project and a heart set on carrying it into execution, 
Mohammed, the Wahhabee, returned to his native 
Nejed, after an absence ... of six years, most of 
which he had passed in Damascus.” He declared 
that the cholera, then epidemic in the Nejed, was a 
sign of divine wrath, and that the best means of 
fighting the scourge was a sincere return to the 
fervour of former days. As a means to this end, 
there was set up a council of Medeyites or Zelators. 
“No Roman censors in their most palmy days had a 
higher range of authority, or were less fettered by 
ordinary restrictions. Not only were these Zelators 
to denounce offenders, but they might also, in their 
own unchallenged right, inflict the penalty incurred, 
beat and fine at discretion, nor was any certain limit 


assigned to the amount of the mulct, or to the number 
of the blows.” Not to be present five times a day at 
public prayers, to smoke, to take snuff, to chew 
tobacco, to wear silk or gold, to speak or to have a 
light in one’s house after the evening service, to sing 
or play any musical instrument, to swear by any other 
name but that of God ; in a word, all that seemed to 
depart from the letter of the Koran and from the strict 
commentary of Mohammed- Abd-el-Wahab, became 
a crime severely punished. “ Rank itself was no pro- 
tection, high birth no shelter, and private or political 
enmities now found themselves masters of their aim. 
Moreover, Wahabism, being the very essence of 
Mahometanism, brings ruin as its natural consequence. 
Systematically hostile to commerce, unfavourable to 
the arts and to agriculture, it kills everything it 
touches. Whilst on the one side it waxes fat on the 
substance of conquered countries, on the other its 
blind fanaticism urges it to make insensate war upon 
all that it is pleased to stigmatize by the name of 
luxury or self-indulgence ; it proscribes tobacco, silk, 
personal adornment, and by endless petty vexations 
persecutes the somewhat unorthodox trader who pre- 
fers a ship to a mosque, and bales of merchandise to 
the Koran .” 1 

Palgrave’s observations, collected with impartial- 
ity, enable us to understand into what a state of 
decrepitude those nations fall who blindly follow the 
Koranic doctrine, and at the same time how wanting 
in political prudence we should be if we befriended 
these people. 

This has been England’s great mistake from the 
beginning of the nineteenth century. Ignoring the 
peculiar psychology of Musulman peoples, and judg- 
x Palgrave, t( A Year in Central Arabia.” 



ing only from appearances, she thought it worth 
while to intrigue against Turkey with the small native 
States of Arabia ; but has only succeeded in creating 
so many centres of fanaticism and xenophobia. 

France has not been much wiser : abandoning the 
prudent and well-advised policy of the Monarchy, 
which always tended to an entente with the Grand 
Turk, we have failed to grasp the true role of the 
Ottoman Empire, we have finally handed it over to 
German influence, and have set it against us, at a 
time when its help would have been of the greatest 
use to us, by upholding the aspirations of the Balkan 
States, little worthy of our interest, or by contracting 
illusory alliances with Arab tribes who have a supreme 
contempt for us. 

From our particular point of view, as a State 
having fourteen or fifteen million Musulmans under 
our tutelage, we have no interest in protecting the 
fanatical section of Islam, whose aim and object is to 
rid their co-religionists of all foreign domination. 

These same fanatics do not regard with any more 
favourable eye the domination of the Turk. They 
submit to it, for the time being, because they are not 
in a position to break away ; but inwardly they curse 
it. For them the Sultan is by no means the real 
Commander of the Faithful; he is no more than a 
usurper, whose ruin is to be desired by every true 
believer. This feeling is easily explained : The 
Commander of the Faithful ought to be a descendant 
of the Prophet, that is to say, of necessity an Arab, 
of the Koreich ; but the Sultan is not even of Arab 
origin, and is, moreover, a Musulman of doubtful 

The Turks were late comers into the world of 
Islam. It was in a.d. 1299 that Othman I., son of 


Ortogul, laid the foundations of Ottoman power, 
favoured by the movement of regional nationalism 
which in all the provinces conquered by the Arabs set 
the native dynasties against the invaders. Thanks to 
their numbers, the Turks rapidly extended their rule 
over all parts of the Empire. Only just Islamized, 
they passed from the rank of subjects to that of rulers, 
so that they came but very lightly under the discipline 
of Islam. As they were constantly being reinforced 
by drafts from the tribes of their nation, they formed 
at all times a block sufficiently compact to isolate 
them from the influence of their surroundings and to 
remain inaccessible to Arab propaganda. 

Actually, their influence overlaid the Arab influ- 
ence to such an extent that at the beginning of the 
fourteenth century it was possible to distinguish two 
perfectly distinct ethnic strata in the Musulman 
Empire : the Turkish stratum which drew to itself 
every element hostile to the Arabs, and the Arab 
stratum formed of Arabs and of Arabized peoples. 

As the Turks held the material force, they imposed 
their views upon the countries subject to their rule : 
Turkey in Europe and Asia Minor; whilst in the 
other provinces, notably in Arabia, the pure Arab 
mentality with its Koranic ideal prevailed. 

The present Musulman world is divided into two 
portions : the Turks, but slightly Islamized, devoid of 
ambition, wishing to live in peace ; and the Arabs, 
penetrated to the marrow by Islamic doctrine, by 
Mahometan ideas, and cherishing the hope of 
re-establishing the reign of Islam in all its primitive 
purity as soon as circumstances permit. This ideal is 
shared in common not only by the Arabs, but by all 
strongly Arabized nations, such as the Persians, 
Berbers, etc. 



This being the case, it is clear that if the power 
exercised by the Turks were to suffer any serious 
injury, it would be to the profit of the Arabs, that is 
to say, of the fanatical element in Islam. The result 
would be an upheaval of the Musulman world, an 
explosion of fanaticism and xenophobia. 

The Turks constitute an element of balance ; they 
oppose their indolence to the fanatical aspirations of 
Arabia and Persia ; they form a buffer State between 
Europe and the Asiatic ferment. So long as they 
exist we have nothing to fear from Asia. If they 
were to disappear, their place could only be taken by 
either Europeans or Asiatics ; in either case Europe 
would be in direct contact with Asia., with the 
necessary result of a conflict. 

It is our interest, therefore, to make the best of 
the Turks, to consolidate their power. There is no 
other people that could replace them in this role, for 
it is necessary to be a Musulman to act upon Musul- 
mans, and necessary to be a superficial or lax 
Musulman to be able to moderate their fanatical 
aspirations. The Turks fulfil both conditions, and 
they are the only people who do so. It is true that 
strict Musulmans bear their rule with impatience; 
but they would never admit the rule of a non- 
Musulman people ; and the Arabs who, according to 
orthodox tradition, would be qualified to direct the 
Musulman Empire, would only add fuel to the flame 
of mutual hatred and would end by letting loose the 
Holy War. 

The Turks could cause no uneasiness to any 
European people. They do not dream of any 
territorial acquisition; content with their lot, they 
want nothing. Besides, from want of imagination 
and from their indolent temperament, they are 


incapable of conceiving any vast project. In short, 
they will never raise themselves among civilized 
nations to a position which would permit them at any 
time to indulge in grandiose ambitions. Their 
culture is superficial. What they have copied of our 
institutions is nothing but a caricature; in reality 
they have shown themselves powerless to rise to the 
rank of a great modern State, and the organizations 
they have borrowed from us can only be made to 
work by the help of European agents. 

So there is nothing to fear from Turkish ambition ; 
they are as a people politically fast asleep. Our 
interest, therefore, makes it our duty to protect 
them, to maintain them as an element of equilibrium 
in the Musulman world. As a corollary, we should 
avoid forming intrigues with their enemies, especially 
with the Arabs or Arabized nations who, themselves, 
are absolutely opposed to our views. The Turks are 
and will remain neutral. The Arabs are and will 
remain irreconcilable enemies of Western civilization. 
They are not only endowed with a mentality different 
from ours, but they are, in addition, animated to the 
last degree in their bigoted enthusiasm by the desire 
to impose upon others this mentality which they 
regard as the highest expression of human genius. 

There is nothing to be done with these fanatics. 
They bow to the force of circumstances for the time 
being, but as soon as they are in a position to revolt, 
they consider rebellion as a sacred duty. There is no 
evolution to be hoped for from them; they are 
irremediably fixed in their conception ; regarding this 
conception as perfect, they will never agree to modify 
it. With regard to them, what we have advocated in 
respect to Islam in general, i.e., neutrality, is only an 
attitude of policy. We have not got to fight the 



Ibedouins of Arabia, because from no point of view 
have we anything to do with them ; neither should we 
aid or protect them under any pretext. Let us leave 
them to live their own life, to their habits and their 
traditions — inferior beings in the midst of a civilized 
world leading the life of barbarians of the remotest 
ages, they are doomed to disappear. Other races will 
absorb them; the Turks especially are installing 
themselves little by little among them, and as the 
Turks are hard-working and prolific peasants, they 
will end by absorbing them, as they have absorbed 
the Greeks in certain provinces of Turkey in Europe. 

This is the best solution we could imagine, as it 
would have the result of reducing the fanatical 
element in the Musulman world, and of gradually 
substituting for it the element of balance represented 
by the Turkish nation. 

We are, of course, only speaking of the Turks 
considered in general, and as an ethnic collectivity. 
We are not unaware that at certain times their leaders 
have manifested and are still manifesting, for political 
purposes, tendencies to fanaticism and xenophobia. 
It is none of our business to encourage these ten- 
dencies, which seem to suggest Arab influence ; but, 
between two evils we should choose the lesser; and 
it appears from the evidence of past experience 
that we should always find it easier to come to an 
understanding with the Turks than with any other 
Musulman community. But we should never forget 
that whenever we have to deal with Musulman people, 
whoever they may be, they will always, in spite of 
appearances, be disposed to respect the law of religious 
solidarity ; and that any interests which may, for the 
moment, divide them, would have but a relative value 
and would never constitute a barrier to their union, 


more or less disguised, against the foreigner. The- 
Musulman, whoever he may be, submits to the strict 
discipline of Islam. He acts always in conformity 
with the higher interests of Islam. This amounts to 
saying that he will never really sacrifice any fraction 
whatever of the Musulman world to a non-Musulman 

It would, therefore, be perfectly puerile to waste 
any enthusiasm on the Turks and to take action on 
their behalf against any European nation. To do so 
would be to expose oneself to deception, for it is 
certain “ beyond a peradventure ” that, once the 
danger passed, they would feel no gratitude towards 
the Christians for having helped them, but would 
make haste to betray them if the interests of Islam 
called for it. What we have said about the Turks is, 
therefore, only correct in so far as it has reference to 
incidents which might occur in the Musulman world, 
and not to any conflicts that might arise between 
Turks and Christians. In this latter case, we should 
always range ourselves on the side of nations of our 
own civilization. 

We have not been able to make this essay as short 
as we should have wished, inasmuch as Musulman 
history being but little known, we have been obliged 
for the sake of our argument to give a resume of the 
essential events necessary for a correct understanding 
of the subject. 

The principal ideas may be summarized as follows : 

Islam is a doctrine of death, inasmuch as the 
spiritual not being separated from the temporal, and 
every manifestation of activity being subjected to 
dogmatic law, it formally forbids any change, any 
evolution, any progress. It condemns all believers to 
live, to think, and to act as lived, thought and acted 

vit r • . 


|he Musulmans of the second century of the Hegira, 
when the law of Islam and its interpretation were 
definitely fixed. 

In the history of the nations, Islam, a secretion of 
the Arab brain, has never been an element of 
civilization, but on the contrary has acted as an 
extinguisher upon its flickering light. Individuals 
under Arab rule have only been able to contribute to 
. the advance of civilization in so far as they did not 
conform to Musulman dogma, but they relapsed into 
Arab barbarism as soon as they were obliged to make 
a complete submission to these dogmas. 

Islamized nations, who have not succeeded in 
freeing themselves from Musulman tutelage, have 
been Stricken with intellectual paralysis and deca- 
dence. They will only escape from this condition 
of inferiority in proportion as they succeed in 
withdrawing themselves from the control of Musul- 
man law. 

Among these peoples, the Berbers of North Africa 
seem the best fitted to break away from this tutelage. 
They are but superficially Arabized ; they have a 
long Latin past ; they are no longer subject to the 
discipline of a Musulman Government ; it is possible 
for them, therefore, so to evolve that they may some 
day re-enter the Latin family. This, of course, will 
be a work of time ; but it is not beyond the power of 
the Protectorates, and should be undertaken and 
followed up by every possible means, if the French 
wish to make of Northern Africa a province of French 
mentality and aspirations. 





Catalogue No. 297/3® r/Mos- 1206 

Author SerY iar 

' ~ 4, /SCO ' " ■ ■ 

Title — I b 1 a k A P« y e h •! egy of 

Borrower JSTo. 

Bate of Issue 

Date of Return 

1 .... 

“A book that is shut is but a block ” 

c ^E°l 0< j 

/y Department of Archaeology 


Please help us to keep the book 
clean and moving. 

S. B.i t48.N,DEiHli "V V